Spice And Wolf

August 28, 2010

Once in a while, I thought to myself maybe instead of watching mindless fanservice or high school comedy genres, I need to watch some thinking animes too. So that I myself won’t label myself as a total ecchi pervert (which I am not, mind you) and if people asked if I have seen ‘decent’ animes, well at least I can say yes. So it was decided that the thinking anime which I should watch at that time should be Spice And Wolf or also known as Ookami To Koushinryou in Japanese. If you disagree with me on whether this is a thinking anime well then at least it doesn’t fall under the two categories I mentioned in my first sentence of this blog.
 
So what is the ‘thinking’ part of this series you may ask? Based on a series of light novels, those who watch it will tend to notice the main focus of this anime is around economics and trade. Yup, for those who are planning to go into business should find this a little handy. Okay, maybe I’m just exaggerating. But at least unlike in other animes whose setting in the fantasy and medieval world means magic, sword action and epic battles, you could learn a two from the basics of trade. Though they aren’t university material type (meaning it isn’t guaranteed you’ll be a definite success by applying these methods) at least they provide good insights and lessons from the simple theories.
 
Our main protagonist is of course Craft Lawrence, a travelling merchant. As seen in episode 1, he stops by in a remote village in a midst of some traditional harvest festival to do his usual barter trade. Something about this ritual that the last person who harvest the last wheat of the season, captures the wolf god known as Horo. That honour befalls on Chloe who is a novice merchant. Part of the ritual has her locked up in the shed for a week. Lawrence meets her and they chat. Do you sense any chemistry going to happen? Unless you put money as your priority. That night when Lawrence is resting outside by his wagon, he is shocked to see a naked female with wolf ears and tail. Introducing herself as Horo, of course any person would scoff off she is a god. Need proof? Well, she turned into something that scared the daylights out of him so much so we didn’t see what her transformation was. Like they say, seeing is believing. Considering this is the old European times, the church holds great power and influence and you know what this means if creatures like Horo are caught, right? Apparently some loophole during the harvesting has Horo managed to ‘sneak’ away from being imprisoned in the shed (keep in mind the other villagers do not know of her real presence and are doing it based on tradition). Considering Lawrence her saviour, Horo soon strikes up a deal with Lawrence to go on a journey. Seems Horo wants to return to her hometown Yoitsu up in the north. She yearns for her hometown since she hasn’t been back there since who knows when. As far as she remembers, she was brought in to bring good yield to the village harvest. However as time passes, people learn to depend on themselves with their own technology and during bad harvest years, they’d blame and forsaken her for the rot when her reason for baring the land was to let it rest. And thus began a journey to the north and a ‘blossoming’ relationship between the duo.
 
In most episodes, the interesting and amusing part is watching the pair in such a love-hate relationship if I should say. To me, Horo is like the haughty and cheeky emo wolf while Lawrence has to put up with her mood swings and teasing. Whether he is a tawake (fool) or his nature as a man, it’s quite amusing and never tiresome to watch her sarcasm, acid tongue and ‘verbal abuse-cum-banter’. Of course as the series goes by, Lawrence gets to know her better and could even ‘communicate’ on her level. Horo is never close to being a damsel in distress as she is self sufficient and intelligent. So her nickname Kenrou No Horo (Horo The Wise) isn’t just for show. But considering she’s a wolf so I guess you’d expect her to be a little playful at times. Of course travelling with Lawrence means she has got to do her fair share of using her wisdom to increase his profits and experience in the trading business. Not bad for a deity wolf, I’d say.
 
To avoid suspicion and persecution from the church, in episode 2, Horo pretends to be Lawrence’s badly burnt wife hiding behind a veil. Here, they meet a man named Zeren who is interested in the pair. Seems he has a proposal to Lawrence about currency appreciation in the form of new silver coins having higher silver content and exchanging them with other currencies. But that’s just rumours. However imagine the profit they’ll make if they get hold of it if it turns out to be true. Zeren wants Lawrence to undertake his proposal of course for a certain percentage. But Horo cautions Lawrence since her ears are able to tell whether a person is lying. In short, Zeren lied. But why? Next morning, Lawrence agrees to Zeren’s plan and to meet in the next town. Lawrence and Horo continue their journey and talk about wolves attacking humans. Seems Lawrence has his fair share of being attacked by wolves so Horo tells him wolves hunt humans because they know humans are subjected to fear. Lawrence gets upset when Horo hints that she herself has hunted humans before so the latter refuses to reveal anything further.
 
The duo arrive in the next town in episode 3. Seems Horo is excited with the food and I’m not sure why she takes a liking for apples. I thought wolves are carnivorous? Maybe she’s different. Yeah, she loaded up his entire wagon with apples. Before meeting Zeren, Lawrence goes to barter trade his furs with the Milone Company. He manages to get a good bargain when Horo interferes. Something about her tactic of making her furs smell with apples to increase its value and thus its price. Later Lawrence meets up with Zeren to talk about their plans. He seems nervous though Lawrence trusts him. Zeren wants a deposit of 10 silver coins and 10% cut in which Lawrence accepts. Considering his side is a little low but that’s because he feels Lawrence is taking the bigger risk and deserves more. Plus, something about with the various different currencies around, the strength a country and its dominance is shown via its purity content like as though going to war. Next day, Lawrence goes to see his friend Weiss who is in the money exchanging business about the silver’s purity. However Weiss is more interested in flirting with Horo. I guess that wolf doesn’t mind either. But business comes first. In short, there is a decline in the silver coin’s content. Which means Zeren was lying all along. Horo points out that there is no way Zeren could be at the lost. If Lawrence profits, he gets a percentage. If Lawrence losses, he still has the deposit and lose nothing. After pondering Horo’s advice of wolves climbing trees to see further, he concludes that Zeren must be under someone’s orders to do such a thing.
 
In episode 4, we learn about a scam to get merchants to amass silver coins that are appreciating and then scammers to buy them which will lead to the merchants trying to rid them once they find out its declining value. With the help of Milone and its branch manager Marlhait, Lawrence finds out Medio Company was behind Zeren’s act. Lawrence decides to come up with a plan that will reap him huge profits, enough for him to open his dream store. But Horo isn’t pleased because that would mean they’ll stop travelling. That night, Horo snuggles close to Lawrence. No, it’s not some steamy affair going to happen but rather she is here to warn him that there are several men waiting outside their door. Lawrence realizing they’re from Medio, takes Horo and quickly flees via the window. A chase ensues. Horo decides to distract them so Lawrence can go see Marlhait. Lawrence is against the plan since her true form will be revealed and taken to the church but Horo is confident she’ll hide long enough for him to rescue her. Some confidence she’s got there. Lawrence safely reaches Milone’s office and since it’s under the protection of some archduke, the Medio thugs give up. Lawrence pleads with Marlhait fort help but Marlhait says there is nothing they can do. Furthermore, Marlhait says something doesn’t make sense since Medio should’ve anticipated this but still chose to come after him. Then they receive a letter from Medio with a bundle of Horo’s fur. That means Horo has been captured. This causes Lawrence to reveal that Horo is the wolf harvest deity. In the dungeon, Horo sees a familiar face among her adversaries. Isn’t that Chloe?
 
Another set of problem arises in episode 5 as Marlhait mentions if Horo’s identity gets exposed, then Milone also will suffer since they’re linked with them. Lawrence comes up with a proposal to get privileges from the royalty for the silver coins since they are financially tight now. In other words, to get rights for certain areas and such. They need to negotiate these privileges with Medio before they prosecute Horo. Lawrence is confident they will trade that because by doing so, Medio don’t want to earn the wrath of the king and church and they could use Horo as a condition for the privileges. Lawrence also thinks Medio hasn’t amassed enough silver coins, the reason they couldn’t present Horo to the church. Marlhait already has arranged for the negotiations while Lawrence plans on rescuing Horo and run till the negotiations end. Milone’s ‘extensive network’ seems to take Lawrence through the maze of underground sewers. I don’t know how the inside job was done but they manage to free Horo as she reunites with Lawrence till they’re picked up in a carriage. She still hasn’t lost her attitude. Yeah, she’s upset Lawrence didn’t come to personally get her. Horo reveals her meeting with Chloe and how the latter was adamant to turn her to the church and that the era of paying respects to the deity is over. She starts crying so Lawrence comforts her. The carriage brings them to another spot as they both escape down into the sewers once more.
 
Unfortunately Medio pursuers are hot on their heels in episode 6. A Medio henchman stabs Lawrence in his arm and although he knocks him out, his movements are slowed. They reach the end of the tunnel but the hole is too high up for them to reach. Medio corners them and among them Chloe, wants Lawrence to hand over Horo so they could hand her to the church and at the same time crush Milone. Furthermore, she offers Lawrence to join her and that they can both settle down and open the stores they dream of. But Lawrence is the kind of guy who isn’t going to break his promise over money. He is bent on taking Horo to the north. Chloe regrets his decision and allows her men to kill Lawrence but to keep Horo alive. That’s when Horo pulls Lawrence back and bites his wounded arm. I’m not sure if this is how she draws her strength but she transforms into her true form: A giant wolf! Enough to freak everyone out and scare them to bits. She chases and knocks out all the fleeing and panicking Medio guys and when it’s Chloe’s turn, I guess she was so scared that she fainted so Horo let her be. Lawrence barely conscious wants to stop Horo (citing she ripped his expensive clothes during her transformation?) but she continues walking as he passes out. When he comes to, he is with Marlhait and his men. He tells Lawrence they found him lying next to a giant wolf guarding him before leaving. On to business, Marlhait says the negotiation was a success and gives half of the silver coins to Lawrence. But he wants to be paid in pepper since winter is coming. Marlhait then hands him a bill for several items which includes a comb that Horo wanted and lots of apples. Lawrence realized and rushes to the cargo area to see Horo in his wagon. She promises to pay him at the end of their journey. As the duo go off and back to their usual ways, Marlhait notes how it is wolf and spice.
 
Lawrence decides to buy Horo better set of clothes in episode 7 (supposedly to be a ‘lost’ episode ‘found’ only if you bought the DVD). Well, unless she wants continue looking like a Jedi wherever she goes, I guess a change of clothes would be nice. Since Lawrence has a gold coin, which is too big a denomination to buy stuff like clothes, he changes loose silver coin change with Weiss. Still not giving up on the wolf, eh? They go to some merchant to sort of ‘swindle’ him to buy clothes from him at a lower price partly courtesy of Horo’s charm. Some may call this bargaining but hey, Horo is one pretty smooth operator. Then another ‘cheap’ business tactic in which Lawrence buys lots of cheap blanket at inflated prices to buy those expensive clothes at a lower price. Though the merchant makes a profit from the blankets but he makes a loss overall because he loses out on the expensive clothes. Something about a theory the merchant wants to establish good relations and leave a good impression hence he is willing to sell at a lower price. Thus the huge gap between both prices results in a huge gain for Lawrence. And by the way, all those apples Horo bought at the end of the previous episode, she ate them all. Serious. Apple lover.
 
The pair are in the next town in episode 8 and Horo can’t wait to get to the next big town Rubinhaigen after there’ll be lots of delicious food for her to sink her teeth in. The duo try to sell the pepper they’ve got as the merchant gets Horo plain water when she complains that she’s thirsty. The deal continues and right before Lawrence accepts his proposal, Horo feints dizziness and accidentally spills her water. It is revealed the water is actually wine. Thus the merchant plans to swindle them are revealed because the merchant plans to make them drunk and gain the upper hand by being the sober one and secondly with the tilted table, it shows that his scales are unbalance. With that, Lawrence blackmails him into giving him high grade armour in exchange he will not expose his dirty tricks. As they depart for Rubinhaigen, they chat on how they’ll make huge profits from the armour but due to high tariffs imposed by the church and merchants who are in cohorts with them, this leads to the smuggling of gold which is highly illegal and if caught, the consequences can be fatal. They pass several travellers who warn them of the bandits up north so Lawrence takes a detour. On the way, Horo picks up a scent of the type of human she hates. Standing in their path, a shepherd girl, Nora and her dog, Enik, with a flock of sheep. Though Lawrence and Nora greet each other, Horo remains suspicious and unhappy due to the fact shepherds and wolves are natural enemies. Or you can look at this way. Another woman to add to the rivalry. Haha. She’ll have his absolute attention over her split. Just kidding. But seriously.
 
Nora offers her services to escort him on his journey and to protect him from wolves in episode 9. Really? There’s one really close by, you know. I guess Lawrence agrees though he is quick to say Horo is cuter. Horo notes that Nora is a skilled shepherd but needs to be wary to avoid exposing herself. Lawrence finds out more about Nora as they continue their journey like how she has been doing this for 4 years and dreams of being a tailor, the reason she needs the money. Then he also learns her current employer is the church but he feels he can get other merchants to take on her escort job. When they arrive at Rubinhaigen, Lawrence pays extra as goodwill to Nora before they part. Lawrence and Horo pass the inspection gates but the custom guards seem to be surprise with Lawrence’s goods. The duo spend the day drinking and eating at the town’s marketplace before Lawrence brings her to the branch of a trading guild he is part of, Rowen. Horo waits outside while Lawrence meets his old friend the guildmaster inside.
 
Lawrence asks guildmaster is anyone is heading towards Ramtora for Nora’s sake in episode 10 but he urges him not to get involved since it’s the church she’s related to. Seems Lawrence has bought something on credit from the Remerio Company so guildmaster lets him handle it himself. Lawrence goes back to his room with Horo and discusses the immense profit they’ll make though he’s temporarily in debt. Next day when the duo go sell the armour, they are surprised to see no signs of activity. Then a guy shows up to tell them that the armour value has crashed due to a cancelled army expedition in the north. Lawrence starts to panic that he is in a huge debt and carrying worthless goods. I didn’t understand that transfer of rights thingy by some other company to Lawrence which causes him to be in debt. Realized that he is being setup, Lawrence goes to see the Remerio boss and learns he has 2 days to settle his debts or be declared a bankrupt. How are you going to sell worthless armour at high prices? Horo suggests that they run but Lawrence knows that they can’t hide and will be found out no matter how. He returns to his guildmaster and he knows he is in debt but the company can’t help him even though Lawrence introduces Horo as his business partner. Lawrence goes round desperately seeking to borrow from other merchants but they all reject him and at one point, one even splashed water on him! That bad and desperate, eh? He’s getting more frustrated by the second as Horo can only tag along. He finally goes to an old acquaintance whom he helped in the past. But he mentions he was willing to help him like the rest but refused because of the impression he is giving while going around with a woman while trying to borrow money. Something about living by God’s teachings and showing his sincerity. He too slams the door on him in disgust. This causes Lawrence to snap and go crazy. Horo tries to calm him down but he starts blaming and taking it out her that if they had never met. That’s when he crossed the line. He realized his wrong and tried to apologize but Horo leaves him and returns to her room.
 
Though he manages to scavenge a few coins, it isn’t enough and is far off. In episode 11, he tries to apologize to Horo but she’s not accepting. Thought of leaving coins for her? Yeah, she throws it back at his head. Like money could be the root for forgiveness. It’s understandable that Horo is upset and her emo level sky high even if Lawrence admits it’s his fault. Sure the insults like a softy go with that but I guess it’s just part of her nature to argue to solve things quickly as they reconcile. They both come up with a plan and go to see Remerio’s boss. That is, to help smuggle gold from the church in exchange for suspending his debt. Since Remerio is having financial difficulties (not to mention Horo’s ‘blackmailing’ if you could call it), he agrees. Lawrence goes to convince Nora whom he believes will not betray them in their bid to smuggle gold. Plus, Nora isn’t satisfied with her current employer so in a way you could say she’s in. Plus, she did admit she took up the job specifically because of him. Lawrence agrees to pay her handsomely and her task will be to smuggle gold via strapping them to her sheep’s belly. Though Lawrence feels a little guilty that he had to trick Nora and Horo reasserting a big softy he is, well even in those times, it’s a dog eat dog world.
 
Lawrence, Horo, Nora and a staff of Remerio, Liebert make their way to Ramtora in episode 12. They trek through the dangerous areas to a point where wolves are discreetly watching them. Though nothing happens and the wolves do not appear, they continue to be on alert. When they reach Ramtora, Liebert goes in alone to smuggle the gold. Eventually he is successful and the gang make their return trip. The weather turns rainy when the wolves start stalking them but with Enik on guard, they didn’t do any rash move till one of them chases after the horse Lawrence and Horo is on. Horo shows her fangs to scare it. Horo decides to handle this alone and wants Lawrence to tell Nora and Liebert to go ahead. Horo knows these young wolves aren’t after the sheep. After Lawrence leaves, Horo is confronted by the pack and its leader who is a giant wolf. As Lawrence stops to dry his clothes, he is confronted by 3 armed men. Supposedly sent by Liebert, they are here to kill him and his companion. Lawrence realizes he has been betrayed but to Remerio, they’re just minimizing the risks (no witnesses, that is) and looking after their interests. The men tie him up and contemplate on what to do with Nora. This works up Lawrence as he tries to attack them but is knocked down to the ground. The men left him to die and go in search for Nora.
 
In episode 13, Lawrence manages to free himself and meets with Horo (somehow she settled the feud without bloodshed by submitting herself). When she learns of Remerio’s betrayal, she transforms into her true form and is going to rush over there to teach those traitors a lesson. Lawrence had better hold on tight because this is going to be the fastest mode of transport he’ll ever ride. At least in this era. Liebert and his men (seems he has 20 of them) are taking Nora who is still oblivious of their plan when a giant wolf appears before them. Seriously do you want to take on a giant being? Better run. Where to hide in this vast plains? The men are easily taken out and coward Liebert who was willing to pay for to protect his life fainted from all that. But it’s not over because Horo has a showdown between Nora and Enik. I’m not sure who Lawrence called as he tried to stop them. In the end, Horo spares them. It seems Remerio was betraying them from the start as the gold they’ve got was only 1/6 out of the intended profit. Nora learns Horo’s true identity. Lawrence goes back to Remerio’s boss and blackmails him to pay him gold coins in instalments over 10 years. This way it would be better because he was preparing to flee with his little assets and should’ve thought of rebuilding his business. By submitting his debts to Rowen Guild, although he may have betrayed Lawrence but if he betrays the guild, his life is as good as over. Just as not to be a black-hearted person, Lawrence allows him to use some of the smuggled gold to avoid him getting bankrupt. As all’s well ends well, Horo and Lawrence have their usual bickering as she tries to find out whose name Lawrence called during their confrontation. She is so emo that one minute she’s throwing tantrums, the next she’s blushing. Nora meets them as she has retired as a shepherd before Lawrence and Horo depart on another journey.
 
Before the start of the much anticipated second season, an OVA sometimes dubbed as episode 0 of season 2 gave and reminded viewers the hot-cold relationship between the man and the wolf. Hey, it’s only a year apart between both seasons but we still enjoy the fun from their interaction, don’t we? This OVA doesn’t serve anything much and you can say it’s like some sort of filler. Set after the gold smuggling incident, Lawrence and Horo meet up with Nora over dinner and of course that wolf is still jealous. You know why lah. Perhaps she couldn’t enjoy her meal or eat and drank too much that she fell ill. Lawrence nurses her back to health and in a reversal of roles, Horo isn’t as scathing as her usual self while Lawrence is pretty much the nutritionist we never know. I mean, the tasty meals he prepared to balance Horo’s hot-cold-dry-wet balance are pretty amazing and informative. Of course after hearing the benefits of drinking sheep’s milk, would Horo wait to get better or sent her ‘slave’ to go get it? Unfortunately she didn’t see this coming because Nora pays her a visit and this dampens her mood. Well, she was a shepherd, wasn’t she? Where else to get good source of sheep’s milk? But when Horo asks about her being a shepherd, Nora’s reply of having a big and open heart accepting others and to discover the hearts of others, this overwhelms Horo and you could say both girls finally get along with each other.
 
Fans waiting for Spice And Wolf II would be happy to know another 12 episodes set for this season. In episode 1 as the pair continue their journey north, Horo has visions of her homeland and is torn to choose between her tribe or Lawrence. As they enter the next town called Kumerson, they meet and make acquaintance with another member of Rowen Guild, Fermi Amarty. Amarty seems like a nice young lad but that’s because he’s quite interested in Horo. Which guy isn’t? Kumerson is also going to have its own big time festival too so what better for Horo to let loose some steam after a long journey by drinking too much. Next day, Lawrence goes meet his old trading acquaintance, Mark and young apprentice Lanto, as he sells them his goods in the form of nails. Since Mark isn’t well knowledgeable in nails, Lawrence gets a good price but decides to be paid in terms of credit. That night, Lawrence asks Horo for more information of Yoitsu and from what she tells him, it will take a year or two to reach there (hey, don’t see any planes or cars, did ‘ya?) and suggests to split up once they reach the town of Niohira considering Horo can reach Yoitsu in her wolf form in 2 days from there. But Horo doesn’t seem happy so Lawrence regrets he shouldn’t have brought this topic up.
 
As Horo enjoys the festival in episode 2, Lawrence decides to learn more about Yoitsu and its legends by looking for chroniclers and is suggested by Mark to refer to Guy Bartose. Doesn’t Lawrence worry about Horo’s identity being exposed? Sure, she’ll be careful. Plus, Amarty wholeheartedly accompanies her for the day. Bartose leads Lawrence to some dark side of town where alchemists reside. They see a woman named Dean "Deanna" Rubens. She tells Lawrence of the legends including a bear that destroyed Yoitsu and a large deity wolf named Horo near the town of Renos in which Yoitsu was probably situated close by. Of course when you leave your hot companion with someone else who has an eye on her, you’d definitely end up jealous as Mark warns him. Yup, Horo’s not back in their room as supposed too. She must be having real fun. Thankfully she arrives back shortly and shows him the gifts Amarty bought her. A wolf-like fine fur scarf and a pyrite stone being popularly sold by a fortune teller in which Lawrence thinks is a scam (I think he wants to get a piece of that profit making scheme too). To make matters worse, Horo seems to have told Amarty that she is an ‘indebted nun’ so that kid was moved. Suddenly Lanto comes in and tells Lawrence something. Something so shocking that it made him dash out of the room onto the streets. No, money isn’t falling from the sky.
 
Seems Lawrence has a new set of problems in episode 3. Amarty challenges him to a duel between merchants in which Amarty will pay off Horo’s debt by tomorrow and in doing so will ask Horo’s hand in marriage (since she’s not affiliated with any church). It would’ve been easier if he just disagree this whole absurd thing but call it a man’s ego and pressure from the onlooking crowd so he accepts. Lawrence has faith that Horo will reject Amarty even if he wins but Amarty himself is confident that Horo will leave Lawrence. Hard to say since we know how emo that wolf is. Lawrence goes to find more information on Amarty. Something about how he despises merchants like Lawrence who relies on connections because he made money on his own although he came from a rich family. But at the same time prices of pyrite have skyrocketed as Amarty uses this chance to make money from the pyrites (since the fortune teller left the town so I guess the stones are now rare) while Lawrence was fooling around with Horo during the festival. When Lawrence returns home, he finds Horo have read the letter Deanna gave to Mark to give to him about the destruction of Yoitsu. I’m sure Horo isn’t crying crocodile tears because she’s really upset that he knew the village was destroyed all along and perhaps have grown tired of her (has he?). She starts getting hysterical and fears of being alone (so much so she has that crazy idea of even mating with him!) but eventually when he couldn’t answered what she means to him, she walks away and Lawrence had to leave and regret his screw up. Better think of something fast or you’re going to lose her for good.
 
Lawrence is pretty down in episode 4 and thinking the what ifs that Amarty and Horo may really end up together. On his way back, he overhears men talking about spending on pyrite instead of wheat. Back at the inn, Lawrence is given a letter by Amarty and Horo declaring the former’s assets and Horo signing a wedding agreement. Enough to make Lawrence panic as he withdraws every cash he’s got and find Amarty. He finds Amarty at a tavern and proposes another challenge. He wants Amarty to buy 500 silver coins worth of pyrite on credit. It’s complicated when I think about the scenarios of who loses and who wins depending on whether the price increases or drops. And with Horo thrown and their chances with her thrown with it, Amarty accepts the challenge though he was sceptical at first. Lawrence goes to talk to Mark and plans to crash the price of pyrite. Mentioning about the wheat’s case, if its price goes up, the pyrites will come down since merchants will panic buy wheat and sell pyrite as they want to take something back when they leave this town. He wants Mark to gather large amounts of pyrite before the value drops but Mark refuses because considering himself as a local merchant as opposed to Lawrence as a travelling merchant, what would the townspeople think if he stopped to such low tactic? He has build relationships and won’t want it to go to waste just to grab a few extra bucks at their expense. Lawrence only path left is to go see Bartose and with his connections with the alchemist, he may get their large untouched pyrite stock which isn’t affected by the current market. As for Mark, he’ll do his best to search for other customers for him.
 
In episode 5, Lawrence goes to see Bartose who then gives him a password so that he could see Deanna himself. Inside her dark room filled with messy piles of books and feathers strewn all over the place, however to his dismay, Deanna mentions that someone had already bought them though it is on credit and that person hasn’t taken them yet. Lawrence suspects Amarty but Deanna refuses to reveal the buyer’s identity. She also tells him to leave the negotiations to her and will contact him later. Next morning after hiring Lanto as his temporary assistant, he goes to the pyrite marketplace and there are many watchers as the prices continue to soar. Lawrence sees Horo there with Amarty but the wolf ignores him. Amarty comes up to him and pays him in advance gold coins as part of the deal made earlier on.
 
The price of pyrite continue to rise in episode 6 and Lawrence makes his move by selling his portion but it was bad timing and decision since the price still keeps rising. Everyone is playing the waiting game believing that those who wait patiently will be rewarded more. His only hope rests on Deanna’s assistant. When she does arrive, she only has bad news for him and that the negotiation has failed and there is nothing more she could do. Lawrence is on the edge of giving up but Lanto encourages him to go all the way even if it doesn’t succeed. So he is going to sell his pyrite again when Horo steps up next to him and sells her bigger bag of pyrite. This has everyone else to start panicking and rushing to sell their portion. In the end, Amarty losses the challenge though not much, it serves as a warning that this is the price he paid for trying to go after someone else’s woman. It is revealed that Horo was the one who bought the pyrite from Deanna. Her betrayal towards Amarty in the end wasn’t a last minute decision as she had always sided with Lawrence from the start. Just that the guy was blinded by his emotions to even see the clues Horo was hinting him (like wearing Deanna’s feathers). Horo was already in negotiations with Deanna right before Lawrence’s visit. Also, she reveals Deanna is no ordinary human but of a deity bird who took a human form because she fell in love with a mortal a long time ago. Horo’s reason for wanting to do this to Amarty was something unforgiveable he said but since Horo wasn’t willing to mention, let’s just leave it there. I wouldn’t say that their relationship is mended but more of stronger and closer now as they continue their travel up north.
 
The duo arrive at the town of Renos in episode 7 and see lots of other merchants waiting outside. Lawrence receives a small trading pass in for him to enable and trade in this town which is otherwise impossible. A guard catches Horo by her tail (literally) but dismisses it as some poor quality fur, pissing the wolf off. As they stay at the inn, Lawrence notices a cloak person watching them on several occasions. Horo tells him that person is a female. Wanting to know more about the town’s legends and myths, they are being told by the old innkeeper, Harold Ekrund, to see a man named Rigolo but he is currently in a 50-man meeting, something to do with the approval of the selling of furs (the reason why the merchants are gathering outside town). I guess in order to kill some time till the meeting finishes who knows when, Lawrence and Horo spend some quality time together.
 
While the duo are drinking at the bar in episode 8, they notice disputes at the port regarding high taxes being imposed on goods which somehow was affected by the cancelled north army expedition. While Horo takes a rest after drinking too much, Lawrence visits a local barmaid and finds out a little more about the 50-man meeting. Till a decision is made, trading fur is prohibited. Due to the cancelled expedition, those who need the fur are gone by now. I think the barmaid was trying to flirt/hit on Lawrence when she asks him if he’s married but he replies "she hasn’t got hold of my purse yet". Haha. Lawrence goes back to the inn and chats with Horo. Don’t remember what the chat of nostalgia is about but it was heart-warming to see them hug each other. Lawrence goes down to talk with Harold when the cloak woman appears and decides to ‘borrow’ Lawrence for a while. In a private room, she reveals her face and introduces herself as Fruhl Boland but prefers to be called Abe. Her reason to cover her face was due to the fact that the merchant business is mainly a man’s world and with very few females. Abe takes an interest in Lawrence since she knows Harold has a good eye for people. She learns of his wish to see Rigolo but being the merchants they are, Lawrence gets down to ‘business’ and asks how much would it cost for her to introduce him to Rigolo. Nil, as long as he continues to chat with her. Who says that there are empty talks? Some conversations can be priceless.
 
The 50-man meeting is finally over in episode 9 so Lawrence and Horo go see Rigolo and are awed by his magnificent garden. I guess Lawrence looks like a guy he that can be trusted so Rigolo allows Horo to borrow several of his books containing legends and myths and bring them back with her. Back at the inn, the duo spend more quality time but Horo hints that she is afraid of their journey ending and being separated from him. That night Lawrence goes downstairs to chat with Harold and Abe. Lawrence learns that Abe is in the business of selling stone statues and makes her profit by selling is quantity. But she is facing a loss due to some backstabbing by the church when the north expedition was cancelled. She intends to cut her losses by getting out of that trade and move elsewhere to make big profit. She then gets straight to the point. She asks if Lawrence could lend her money and that if he was willing to sell Horo to her.
 
In episode 10, the decision to allow furs to be sold is approved but only in cash. This would lead to those with loads of cash to buy up all the furs to make a profit and escape from the city. Abe reveals she is a fallen noble and their real objective isn’t to sell Horo, who will be presented as with a noble bloodline. They just need lend her so they’d have enough funds for a cut of the profit they make in selling furs and in worse scenario, Horo will be collateral if the deal fails. So Lawrence of course is in a dilemma whether to sell Horo and even wakes up from a bad dream of it. As usual he tells Horo and expecte the emo bantering. However Horo is upset not because of being sold, but rather she has been selfish all along and thinks it’s okay this time for him to be selfish too. Huh? Next morning, Lawrence meets a beggar in an alley. He learns that the church here is quite generous as in addition to receiving food, they get a few coins too. Being poor is so blessed if you have no qualms on living like this. The beggar tells him about a person who only does business with the church but was seen screaming at them when the deal fell through. Realizing that was Abe, however Lawrence is shocked to know from the beggar that person trades in salt. Lawrence goes to confirm more with the barmaid. Seems like she loves flirting with him. We know why he’s not the kind who easily gives in to her charms :). Well she did mention she wanted to meet his companion at least once.
 
Lawrence goes back to Horo and discuses about how this town is planning to establish a cathedra (bishop’s throne) for full power. They also chat about the deal falling through so Horo cheekily hopes her next partner will be smarter. Horo agrees to help him out solely because she believes in him. They go chat with Abe who tells her reasons for leaving the church. Seems the power crazy bishop in this city is aiming to be an archbishop. Abe discovered he had backdoor dealings in fur but being an amateur, he’s always in the red. Betting that he will be the next archbishop, Abe got involved and sold statues to him and the church though the margins are small. But as he grew more powerful, he decided to cut off all obstacles and depend on larger companies rather than an individual. They agree on the plan as the trio head out.
 
Meeting a guy named Lutz Eringin of Derrink Company, the negotiations begin in episode 11. It seems Horo’s value is set at 2000 silver coins. With the deal done, the trio have a chat at the port. Abe tells about her past. As a fallen noble, she was bought by a cruel master. His business was flourishing but when the king changed policies, he went bust in a flash and took his own life. Thus Abe wants to prove she can surpass him and worth more than the money’s worth he bought her then. She advises the duo to treasure their meeting. When Lawrence and Horo go back to their room, she talks about ending their journey here though she wants to be with him (huh?). They go return Rigolo’s books when Lawrence notices a statue of Virgin Mary in the room made out of salt. Since Rigolo is out, the nun of the place chats with Lawrence while Horo sifts through other books in the chamber. Their conversation is interrupted when someone is banging furiously on the door. They open to find Abe and she seems panicky. She quickly tells them to leave now because everything has gone bad and there is a rebellion in the midst. The town is on fire!
 
With the fur traders and merchants revolting against the decision in episode 12, Abe and Lawrence continue their plan. As Abe goes to secure a boat, Horo questions him for hiding something. Something about they’ll part if the deal goes either way. Either a good farewell or bitter one. Plus, if he’d throw away the deal, he’d continue travelling with her, the reason he didn’t want to tell her in the first place. Oh yeah. She slaps him because she thinks she’d be happy with that kind of answer. Lawrence brings Horo to Derrink and gets the cash. On his way to meet Abe, he is in a dilemma since he’ll get big profits and achieve his dream but somehow doesn’t feel happy about it. When he meets Abe and she’s ready to put forth their plan, Lawrence has his doubts. He wonders if he has lost her nerve over the deal. From what I understand from this conversation is that Abe can’t afford to let Lawrence back out of this deal and pulls out a machete to threaten him, Lawrence concluding Abe was pretending to trade statues when in actual fact she was smuggling salt to the church that amasses her lots of profit so much so people start to wonder where the church got their generous charity from and as time passes the church gained more power. Abe made another deal with the church to gain bigger profits by proposing to buy up all the fur before the merchants do but the church teamed up with a company instead and cut ties with her. The reason she proposed this deal to him is to be her guarantee against harm. A short fight ensued all because of money and in the end Abe knocked him out.
 
He wakes up to see a man beside him and also a charter Abe left. Lawrence goes back to Horo and she’s not very happy that he lost everything and threw away his dream. But thanks to the charter signed by Harold, he was able to buy Horo back. Another round of wolf insult, admonishing and reprimanding. Looks like her slaps have upgraded to punches. Ouch. Horo wanted to change into her wolf form to get back the money but Lawrence hugs her and tells about Abe’s suicidal trade in which if the church found out, they’ll be in trouble (remember the church views on this). Lawrence wants them to leave the town but Horo isn’t convinced so he confesses that he loves her and then kisses her. Oh yeah. The moment that we’ve all been waiting for. See how emo that wolf is since now she starts crying and wants him to take full responsibility. I’m sure that guy would gladly to. Plus, he mentions he is more concern about her resolve than making profit so Horo blushes and says it would be troublesome if she’d fall in love with him. Hasn’t she? As we see Rigolo reuniting with the nun and the local barmaid and the other staff locking themselves in to protect their store, Lawrence and Horo walk out hand in hand towards the boat while the town continues to be in chaos.
 
What was that unsatisfying ending all about? Are they really going to end it like this without another season? It may look like it ended hanging but the fact that Lawrence and Horo are resolved to continue their journey. Basically that is what the whole series is all about. Besides making profit of course. As I have mentioned earlier on, the relationship between the duo is most fascinating and fun to watch especially Horo. One minute hot, the next minute cold. One second flirty, abusive the next. Maybe I’ve should’ve record all those witty remarks and one-liners for future references. I’m not the kind of guy who likes emo girls with temperamental mood swings but Horo is an exception. Probably she’s got a tail, eh? Over time their ties grow stronger and they learn quite a lot about each other. They’ve even know how to answer each other. So it’s true that their meeting was a blessing and it’s a good thing that they treasure it. Something that money cannot buy. Another amusing thing about Horo is her appetite. Besides her penchant for apples, she eats just about anything else that humans do. Of course good food. I guess being a deity also has ups and downs. Hey, notice Horo didn’t transform to her real form in the second season? Where’s the need for that anyway? There were many other potentials in terms of build-up regarding Horo’s hometown. Unless the producers decide to make another season, we’ll have to make do with what has been told so far.
 
Being always on the road, I guess there weren’t enough time to develop the other characters that are only significant for that particular arc. For instance at the end of the second season I was wondering about Abe and probably she had robbed Lawrence and ran off with his money, I was actually hoping that there was something more ulterior than what she had revealed. I was also expecting that Rigolo dude to have a hand in something sinister but he turns out to be a nice guy as per his looks. With the second season, I guess we won’t be hearing anymore from Chloe or Nora. Has Chloe given up on turning Horo to the church? Maybe after seeing her true form, she knows the true meaning of fear. Nora may be living her peaceful retired life by now. I’m sure Amarty himself has learned a valuable lesson. As a travelling merchant, Lawrence made lots of friends in every town he stops and maintaining good relationships in business is a valuable asset.
 
As for the few trade theories and concepts, I am quite ashamed to admit that I don’t understand most of them having taking economics subject myself in secondary school and even in college. No matter how many times I replay that seen or read the subtitles, I just could not comprehend and grasp the entire notion. That is why I dislike thinking animes and prefer to stick to my favourite conventional mindless ecchi comedy ones. And speaking of fanservice, there is none in this anime unless you are those animal ears and tail fetish and/or get turn on by the sight of seeing a naked wolf in human form. That’s about it. I wouldn’t consider that as fanservice by the way. At the end of the series, I guess I have forgotten most of the lessons (perhaps all of them). I guess that saves me trouble of trying to apply it in my real life, eh? The artwork and animation are quite well done in the sense that it gives a feeling of old Europe during those medieval times. From the design of the town walls to the lush greeneries of the countryside, it really feels like you’re in another fantasy world and era.
 
For the second season, there are 2 specials for those who have bought the DVD. Yup, only 2. And I thought that there was going to be more but let’s not complain. Basically both specials are nothing much and like most short extras lasting around 5 minutes or so, serve as ‘motivation’ to buy the DVD. We’ve got Horo as motivation if that’s what they mean. The first special is some sort of a short study session with Horo. Maybe study is a little inaccurate. Here, Horo tells viewers about the bread and wine in this world. Well, we know Horo’s appetite in this series so it’s no wonder she is talking about the stuff she loves. This short segment is also informative as it tells viewers the differences between several types of bread and the basics of fermenting brandy. Yum. The second special serves more like simple stretching exercises with Horo. For you lazy otakus who stare at the screen all day, maybe this wolf demo in doing stretching could motivate you to move those accumulating fats. The stretches here aren’t anything extraordinary. Typical and normal. Except the last one, which is stretching her most important and precious part, her tail. Haha. Do we all have a tail? No wonder the disclaimer at the end saying how it won’t work on us humans.
 
Initially I couldn’t recognize Jun Fukuyama who was the voice behind Lawrence. I guess I could recognize him if he voices arrogant and egoistic characters like Kakeru from Akikan, Leopard in Sora Wo Kakeru Shoujo and Kei of Special A. Ami Koshimizu did quite a pretty job herself voicing Horo. It was very befitting the character who speaks using the olden language style and the many moods of Horo. She was also the voice of Tenko in Kamisama Kazoku and Nodoka in Saki. Other casts include Mai Nakahara as Nora (Nagisa in Clannad), Kaori Nazuka as Chloe (Shizuku in Kampfer), Saeko Chiba as Amarty (Chika in Ichigo Mashimaro) and Romi Paku as Abe (Edward in Fullmetal Alchemist). The opening themes of both seasons feel like slow ballads with Tabi No Tochuu by Natsumi Kiyoura as the first one and then Mitsu No Yoake by Akino Arai as the second one. Rocky Chack does the ending themes for both seasons. The first season is sung entirely in English called Ringo Biyori ~The Wolf Whistling Song. Reminds me of some group which I can’t put my finger on. Note the ‘Engrish’ and the animation filled with apples. The second season’s ending theme is called Perfect World and feels like slow pop. Somehow I find the drawing and art for the ending credits animation for both seasons, Lawrence and Horo look more like young teens… Though there are a few background music and they mainly give that medieval feel, there is one played during tense moments. Those sharp and dramatic strings are loud and sometimes they give you the jump when you least expected it. On a trivial note, each of the episode title has the word "Wolf" in it followed by an action, feeling or situation. Though it’s supposed to reflect that of Horo’s but sometimes I feel they apply to Lawrence as well.
 
I don’t know how long their journey will take but like the saying goes, it isn’t the destination but the journey that counts. Maybe they both can end their journey with a fairytale-like ending. Horo reaches her hometown and Lawrence doesn’t necessarily have to part with her. Maybe he could open his dream shop there. Yeah, probably in the middle of nowhere. Has he checked out about humans mating with gods? Well even if that happens, it’ll be another story. But if you ask me if I’d travel with someone on a faraway journey, just pack lots of priceless anime for the road and I’ll be okay. I wonder how much would it cost to trade a rare anime memorabilia that I want. Do you accept apples then?
 

Spice And Wolf

Doki Doki School Hours

August 27, 2010

How would you react if your class teacher is as petite as a little girl? Would you take her lessons seriously? It would be a great challenge for the teacher rather than the students. That’s right. Ask 27 year old still-single teacher, Mika Suzuki. She may nearly be reaching 30 years old but her physique and size is that of a little girl. I wonder if she drank milk during her growing years. This doesn’t help when her personality doesn’t reflect her age. Sometimes acting like a little girl, childish and immature. I know she may look cute but is it hard to wonder why her students don’t take her seriously? I guess in her case, you could say being a teacher is tough. Very.
 
Doki Doki School Hours is another one of those high school comedy themes and those who are into such genres should have a look at this title. Also known as Sensei No Ojikan, Mika’s case may remind us of several other animes in terms of teachers who are smaller and younger than their students. Such as in the case of Rebecca of Pani Poni Dash, Yui from Hani Hani Operation Sanctuary, Negima in Mahou Sensei Negima series and Komoe in To Aru Kagaku No Railgun. Who wouldn’t love their teachers to be cute little darlings, would they? A recipe for success or disaster? Who knows?
 
So in episode 1, Okitsu High School has just finished its opening ceremony and Mika is the homeroom teacher for Class 2A. She makes a first day blunder by getting lost in the crowd of students. Blame her small size? This episode also seeks to introduce the wacky students of her class. They are Kobayashi: the money-minded and diet freak but always giving in to her temptations in the end. She’s feeling hard to stay awake right after spring break and her part time job which pays but blows it by breaking expensive plates; Suetake: the athletic one and ‘failure in everything non-sports related’ who spots a large sports bag that can literally fit Mika in (in which he does!); Nakamura: nicknamed ‘oyaji’ (old man) because he does old man habits and in turn is mistaken to be one too outside school; Seki: a good looking but vain narcissist guy who wears make-up. Also tries asking the girls out but gets rejected. Oh, did I mention he’s a frequent cross-dresser too?; Iinchou: an intelligent and obsessed fan of a pop group and its main singer Koro-chan. She became a class rep because her idol says it’s cool being one and lives her life for him!; Kudo the gay and seems to like Suetake but the latter is oblivious. He is also to nose bleed king for instance he undergoes one while helping Suetake to study when the latter mispronounces a word "dig into someone’s butt"; Tominaga: in-your-face honest girl doesn’t like the weirdo boys in her class and is a horror fan (applying it to her cooking?); Kitagawa: tall and well endowed loves little people like Mika and because of that enjoys teasing her to death and gets excited just about any reaction poor Mika does; Watabe: a good artist so much so he draws on any paper he gets and is the only member of the manga club. Back home, Mika’s sharp tongue Mom reprimands her for not acting like an adult but Mika thinks otherwise and softy Dad is okay with it. Next morning, Mika wakes up late and blames Mom for not waking her up so she shoots back at her about being an adult. Thankfully Dad offers to drive her to school as they make their morning rush.
 
It’s the physical examination in episode 2 so Kobayashi thinks dieting for today will give her desirable results. School nurse Matsumoto is taking the measurements so Kobayashi thinks of postponing it till tomorrow. No go. Kobayashi tries to hold her breath while her breast size is being measure (1 minute 21 seconds is as long she can hold). And her weight, let’s just say she’s screaming after stepping on the scales. After that she becomes depressed so Seki tries to cheer her up by saying he can only wear A-cup bras?! Mika takes her measurements too and based on Matsumoto’s conclusion, she thinks she is shrinking! That’s got to be bad, right? Then the sports festival, Mika seems to be the reserve basketball judge. However she starts panicking when the real judge falls ill so she has to replace him as she knows nothing about the sport. She regrets not heeding Dad’s words to learn basketball rules earlier on because she thinks she’s just a reserve. Thankfully Dad secretly slips a "Basketball Made Easy" scroll for her so she gets by. At the end of the match, she feels dizzy. Too strenuous for a little girl, eh? Then they go watch other sports. Seki plays volleyball and returns the ball with his ballerina moves. He’s in a tutu! WTF?! Nakamura blushes while watching Iinchou play so Kobayashi teases him but he like those bouncy stuff causing her to misinterpret boobs in actual fact what he meant was her hair. Seki reprimands Tominaga for wearing shorts instead of a skirt in her tennis match. The final match is baseball so Seki (in a cheerleading outfit) has the girls put in effort to cheer for their class. Suetake wins via homerun and in the end Class 2A becomes the champion of the sports festival. Two days later, Mika visits the infirmary due to muscle and backache pains. Not fit…
 
The students are in their summer uniforms in episode 3. Seki is dressed in a girl’s uniform! The class talks about what kind of swimsuits they can wear for the pool class. In the end, it’s the typical school swimsuits. Mika and Matsumoto relief Class 2A for pool lessons. While busty Matsumoto looks good, Mika looks like a kid. Mika is reluctant to swim till Kitagawa mentions she’s a hammer, did she dive and start doing some strokes. But she tires out so soon so much so Kitagawa thinks of giving CPR! Three days later, she has muscle cram and Mom is nursing her. Not fit… The final exam is here and some of Class 2A aren’t giving much thought about studying. Mika gets embarrassed when Iinchou seems more knowledgeable than her in English. Last minute studying didn’t help either. Like Kobayashi who is giving up while Watabe is carrying on for his manga event. Mika tries to scare them by saying if they fail, they’ll have to return for supplementary classes during summer. The exam begins and Mika notices some of her students not doing what they’re supposed to do. Watabe drawing manga on his answer sheet, Kudo staring at Suetake, Kobayashi determining which answer based on Mika’s reaction and Kitagawa writing her love for Mika in each answer space. Mika got bored and starts dozing off and dreamt her class passed with flying colours. Her drooling and squealing is creeping her students out. She marks their papers and to her horror, some failed! There goes her summer vacation. Some failed on purpose like Kitagawa (just to be with Mika) and Kudo (to be with Suetake). But the latter’s plan backfired because Suetake passed! During summer class, Mika does pool lessons for her class. Three days later, she has muscle cram and Mom is nursing her once more. Are we going to see this pattern every episode?
 
On a day off without supplementary class in episode 4, Mika lazes around the house like a bum till the air-cond breaks down and she has no choice but to follow Dad out shopping. On her way she sees her students like Kobayashi working part time at a fast food joint, Watabe depressed over his ruined manga work and Seki at a make-up store putting on some. After Mika and Dad had their fun and food at the mall, she got separated and was embarrassedly reunited with Dad like a lost child while her passing by students watch on. Mika and her students turn up for the festival (Seki in a yukata?!). Except for Nakamura who is vacationing at some warm sandy beach. They try their hand at goldfish scooping but Mika was absolutely clumsy. Mika initially didn’t want to participate in the other games but I guess her ego and child side took over and made her join in. For the shooting game, Kitagawa shoots at Mika because she’s the thing she wants. Then everyone gathers to watch the fireworks. For the record, considering this is an old school anime, the fireworks display looks so-so.
 
Summer break is over in episode 5. Some of the students are tanned like Suetake due to club activities and Kobayashi because of her part time job. The rest think Nakamura’s tan is due to his construction job but actually it was from the Southern Island vacation. Seki comes to class in a girl’s uniform. If you think that’s disgusting, wait till you see he’s also wearing a bra! Mika wants the class to hand in their homework when Kobayashi ‘hijacks’ and wants everyone to tell their summer vacation memories. All so typical based on their personalities. From Kudo’s gay fantasy to Watabe’s manga drawing. Kobayashi then feints summer heat weariness but Mika still has everyone to turn in their work. Seki feels unfair that teachers don’t have homework but Mika disagrees. Then it hit her that she has forgotten to do her homework. That is, to set test questions. Good news for the class? Mika wants her class to read but they have other books in mind like Watabe’s planned manga work and Kobayashi’s "How To Lose Weight". At the library, Mika gets engrossed reading a manga suggested by Suetake. Then Kitagawa continues to give her a book she really wanted. Mika continues reading it back home and stayed up late even if Mom warns her about being late for tomorrow’s sketching competition, which she scoffs off. True enough, she gets tired the next day and all part of Kitagawa’s infatuation to see her cute reactions. The usual antics from the gang trying to sketch scenery. Kitagawa whispers nice thoughts to Mika when she couldn’t find a good view to sketch so much so she fell asleep on her lap. She wakes up at the end of the day feeling guilty Kitagawa couldn’t complete her sketch. But she did sketch a cute and embarrassing sleeping face of Mika. Back at school, Mika laments her fate of grading endless summer break homework. That’s what being a teacher is all about, isn’t it?
 
Watabe is addressing his manga club members to have a doujin sale at the school cultural festival to recruit members in episode 6. Remember he’s the only member? So he’s addressing to an empty class. Crazy. A junior girl from 1C, Chinatsu Nakayama, watches him from afar in awe. Mika discusses with her class what to do for the school festival and as usual sick ideas based on their personalities. Finally a Snow White play is decided because the other plays are just sick twisted adapted stories-turned-fantasies of you-know-who. The crew and cast are decided via lottery. No second chance, you get what you get. Kudo gets disheartened when he gets the Snow White role but vows to do his best when Suetake is going to play the Prince. During practice between Kudo and Suetake, a group of girls are watching in excitement. Yaoi fujoshi fans! They’re going wild and screaming at the sight! Seki, who is playing the evil Queen, gets jealous when he sees Kudo quite pretty in make-up (good for the play, bad for real life comparison). During the festival, the play goes well without a hitch. I’m not sure if both guys kissed but Kudo garnered lots of female fans, in which he isn’t too happy. As for Seki, he’s still jealous. With that over, everyone goes to see how Watabe is going with his doujin sales but he is depressed that not 1 doujin work was sold and no one joined the club. Who wants to be an otaku? Nakayama nervously comes in and introduces herself, claiming to be his biggest fan and owns every doujin work Watabe does. She passes her manga work for him to check but everyone gets shock to find how horrible it is. Worse than children’s doodles! "Dou?" (How?). "Doheta!" (Terrible!). Anyway she joins the manga club. Headache for Watabe…
 
In episode 7, Watabe is extremely upset that Nakayama is a ‘manga destroyer’. She can’t do anything right with them and in the end it gets destroyed. But for the manga club’s future sake, he gives her a chance as they’ll both sell manga during the weekend. However she beats him in terms of sales because she dressed up as a cute reindeer. Christmas is around the corner. Seki and Kobayashi get jealous to see Watabe and Nakayama close together since they themselves are girlfriend/boyfriend-less. Everyone is invited to Tominaga’s house for Christmas party and the usual gift exchange and Mika eating lots of sweet cakes. She ate so much that she has stomach discomfort. But Dad and Mom has got a big cake back home and are confident Mika will finish it. Meanwhile Matsumoto bumps into and dates a handsome hunk on the streets but gets disheartened when she learns he already has a kid. New Year’s Day as Mika dresses in her kimono and visits the shrine with her students. By now, you should’ve expected to see Seki in a kimono. The place is crowded and Mika gets lost but was found and comforted by Kitagawa (part of her plan?). As for Matsumoto, she’s drowning her disappointments in sake and vows to move on. The gang prays at the shrine as Mika wishes not only to be taller but for everyone to have high spirits and a good year. Then it hit her that she’s nearly 30 years old and goes into shock mode.
 
A cold winter morning in episode 8 as Mika goes to school, she becomes klutzy and ends up in embarrassing poses in front of her students. Mika and her students make snowman and have snowball fights. Then Valentine’s Day, Kitagawa teases Mika by not handing chocolates she made for her and then dropping it on purpose only to reveal it was fake. Kudo tries to give his to Suetake but the latter thinks Kudo got it from some girl, breaking his heart. Kobayashi gives her obligation chocolates to the guys because she wants them to repay her on White Day. Tominaga gives Seki a cake but it tastes awful. Nakayama gives Watabe chocolates and though the decoration looks one kind, it tastes good. Kobayashi gives Mika chocolates in hopes that every woman in the world will become fat except her. Kitagawa feeds Mika chocolates and keeps going when she says they are good for wrinkles. Tominaga and Kobayashi ask Mika if she has chocolates to give and she answers yes. Her Dad, that is. That guy got real emotional. On White Day, Kobayashi is disappointed the guys forgot about their repayment except for Nakamura who gave her a rubbish bin. As for Seki, he dresses in a samba carnival outfit. S&M? Mika gets a car with her name as her White Day present and Dad as her chauffeur. Sometimes you have to spoil your daughter once in a while. Wait a minute. She’s spoiled most of the time…
 
Graduation day brings melancholic memories for Mika in episode 9 because she didn’t manage to enter university. Mika is depressed because she is chosen to emcee the graduation ceremony. To help overcome her nervousness, her students suggest outrageous ideas including making her practice her speech out in the cold. Next day, she got hay fever but the day after she got better but dreads the fact she still has to emcee the ceremony. Mika’s emcee goes well thanks to Dad’s secret scroll of emcee duties. Iinchou gives her class rep speech and breaks down in tears. Everyone is moved and applause her heartfelt speech. Actually, she had to miss a special exclusive broadcast of Koro-chan Live. Haha. After the ceremony, the seniors gather outside to give away their shirt buttons (a girl wanted to give Seki her skirt!), seniors lining up to have their picture taken with Mika as memories and a bunch of senior girls weeping (actually they got hay fever and was lining up to the infirmary). Iinchou dreads the falling sakura petals like as though they’re symbolizing death but in actual fact it’s her turn for sweeping duties. At the end of the day, Mika can’t hold back her tears and starts crying. This prompts her students to plan and flunk their students so they can repeat their year and be with her, much to her dismay. Can you call this a noble intention?
 
Class 2A goes on a field trip to Kyoto in episode 10 Kobayashi is made the group leader-cum-tour guide since Iinchou thinks she needs to take some responsibility for arriving late. They visit several historical sites but some places do not live up to Kobayashi’s expectations via their names so she gets disappointed. Seki tries to beat the beauty of the places (by dressing up?) but eventually succumbs to its natural attraction. Suddenly Seki and Iinchou are missing so Kobayashi plays Sherlock Holmes and concludes that they have eloped. The next scene turns into a police investigation scene with Class 2A students playing the police conducting their search for clues of the duo’s whereabouts while blur Mika gets dragged along. In the end, they find them at the cliff and it’s revealed Iinchou wanted a hologram sticker of Koro-chan. To get it, she has to fulfil a requirement and has Seki rented a kimono which he wanted to wear so much also. So it’s a win-win situation. I don’t know why but only Seki gets arrested and taken away. Mika is still blur on what’s going on (so am I). That night at the inn, the guys pay a visit to the girls’ room but the girls want to sleep. I don’t know how but Nakayama manages to run all the way to Kyoto to show Watabe her new manga. Still sucks by the way. Next morning, Kitagawa plays a prank on Mika that she overslept and this prompts Mika to note how she hates field trips.
 
The gang hates rainy days in episode 11 because it spoils their plan especially Mika who can’t do anything on her day off (as if she does anything if it isn’t raining). Class 2A gets an intern teacher for 2 weeks, Hatoko Hori, and will be supervised by Mika. They wonder what kind of person she is, especially Nakayama who fears she and Watabe may get romantically close due to some manga fantasizing of hers. They get a surprise to learn Hori is Suetake’s second cousin, much to Kudo’s horror. Now he’s got a rival. She starts her lesson but Mika fell asleep! Mind you, Hori’s lesson isn’t boring. Nakayama’s fears come true when Hori compliments Watabe’s drawing so she ‘interrogates’ her at the gym what she likes about Watabe by giving manga materials as an excuse. As she continues to teach and make friends with her students, Kitagawa seems to take a liking for Hori! Should Mika feel happy or sad? Her final day arrives and both teacher and students have good words for each other before she leaves. I don’t know why but Nakayama seeks Matsumoto’s advice on the different types of loves. Does she have the experience looks? Well, maybe.
 
Mika is happy that her class passed their tests in episode 12 and this means no summer classes. Even dumb Kobayashi gets 70% and the class average is 90%! It’s revealed Mika set her questions too easy and got scolding from the principal. To Mika’s dismay, she is forced to supervise the football, manga and cooking club for the summer break. However Iinchou cautions them of a curse she just heard called Okitsu Curse. The only known thing about it is a terrible fate will befall on the supervising teacher during the summer. How convenient. Iinchou thinks a clue relating to the curse is an unopened door since its inception. While Mika cowers in fear, her students eagerly open the door and find a very long toilet bowl (for group potty?). They see messages on the wall and think they’re clues to the curse. It includes "A major disaster will strike the small" (assuming that’s Mika), "Beware the white and black" (don’t even think of all the weird exaggerated ideas they have) and "After the terror, the small will receive a gift of abundance" (must be some reward at the end of the long road, eh?). Mika supervises the football club first and the gang notes the white and black in the form of the football. They think Mika has to kick it to alleviate the curse but before she could do so, she hurt her back and is out. Next, Mika supervises the manga club but pushy Watabe makes her do the inking and that’s when they realize the white and black are the manga pages. Mika accidentally spills ink and rips the paper to ruin his original work. Then everyone chips in to help finish the curse but draw their own versions and what they like. Watabe’s life is over. Finally the cooking class, everything goes well as they make and eat lots of delicious apple pie. They think this is the gift of abundance as they revel but Iinchou notices a white tofu covered with black soy sauce Mika made earlier. Three days later, Mika is in the infirmary experiencing muscle pains, inflammation of her tendons and gained weight. They realize the meaning of the curse. The white and black things she’s supposed to beware of are the cause of her terror and the gift she gained in abundance was her flabby belly and weight gained from eating too much apple pie. Curses!
 
Class 2A goes to the beach for the summer holidays in episode 13, including Hori and Matsumoto. The usual fun and antics like changing into swimsuits, jealousy of Kudo and Nakayama towards Hori, Watabe having the need to draw manga on his mind, Iinchou and Nakamura competing in a penalty beach volleyball game in which Iinchou won, Tominaga diving down a high cliff and Mika getting wave-sick while thinking too long upon Hori’s question of how to make a class more fun and lively (partly she ate too much before she swam). The gang retire to a 4-star luxurious hotel courtesy of Nakamura’s dad’s friends. Super long limo and excellent service! The gang play inside a large man-made hotspring and soon a hotspring boat ride caught their attention. They split into 2 groups as Mika’s group reach an underground realm of hotspring. Suddenly Nessie pops up and is going to devour Mika but a voice tells it to back down. It is the king and queen of this hotspring realm that resembles closely to Dad and Mom (WTF?!). After treating well their guests, Mika and co leave. On their way back, Mika fell into a strong current as the rest try to save her. They manage to pull her back in the boat but it went off the waterfall. Thankfully they’re saved by Nakamura’s group as he was piloting a helicopter. Hey, WTF?! How does he know how to pilot that thing? This place must be damn huge to even have this stuff and to even look like a jungle. The next day as everyone prepares to head home, Hori understands how to make a class fun and lively after watching Mika: the teacher has to get to the students’ level and have fun.
 
Kobayashi and Mika enter class early 1 morning to find a blonde kid greeting them in English in episode 14. They think they’re in America but as pointed out, he’s the new foreign transfer student, Anthony M. Chamberlain. Speaking fluent Japanese (though with an accent), he cites his reasons for love of Japanese culture. No, not Japanese literature but anime, manga, games, Akihabara, etc. An otaku! The usual jokes from his American point of view some of which are lame. Because of his otaku side, he clicks well with Watabe. When they talk about how otaku don’t have much freedom in the west and Japan as well, Tominaga brings up a topic that there was an Otaku Control Law, the entire scene changes to that of a police drama at the turn of the century whereby reading and possessing manga is prohibited and illegal. Detective Mika along with her team of Nakamura, Tominaga, Kitagawa and Kudo while the rest are part of the dark manga group.
 
The good guys bust Kobayashi and Seki doing an illegal manga transaction. But the king of black manga market Watabe isn’t happy Mika is always foiling his plans so Iinchou sends Suetake to ‘assassinate’ Kudo. Yeah, blood all over the floor because of his nose bleeds. He’s so infatuated with him. Mika remains steadfast and continues nabbing those who break the law. One night they surround Watabe’s hideout but found no manga and couldn’t arrest him. All they arrested was bungling Nakayama who came in to show Watabe her newly drawn manga. Dumb. They continue their investigation and see a link between Watabe and another manga kingpin, Anthony. Watabe and Anthony are conducting a secret manga trade but are busted. In order to let the duo run, Iinchou and Suetake try to show manga to the detectives as they shield their eyes (remember, reading manga is illegal – damn absurd if you look at it this way and how silly they look). Watabe and Anthony are cornered but before Mika could arrest them, Anthony requests to read Watabe’s manga for 1 last time. His laughing has Mika curious so she too takes a peek and starts laughing. When her colleagues arrive, she tries to show them but gets arrested instead. Next day, the present seems to be hooked o manga so he repeals the ban on it and everyone is free to draw and read them. I don’t know why Mika and the arrested ones are still in jail but they have to start drawing.
 
The sports festival is near in episode 15 as Iinchou assigns duties to her classmates. For the relay event, it’ll be Nakamura, Suetake, Kudo and Iinchou. Anthony teaches Seki some cheerleading moves since her sister is into that. Mika doesn’t have fond memories of her sports festival days because she’s clumsy and un-athletic. More embarrassing than anything. Sports day arrive and events include 100m boy’s race (Mika got caught betting on who’s going to win by the vice principal; Seki fells down and wounded his knee but Tominaga loves the sight of his blood; Watabe running real fast and ends up continuing to run past the goal since he got a manga idea and rushes home to pen it down), 100m girl’s race (Kitagawa won by her boobs, envying Mika and Kobayashi), staff race (Mika feels embarrassed by Dad’s cheering and support. Either way, she ends up last and in embarrassing ways in all races). Class 2A wins the kibasen event and if they win the next final relay event, they’ll become champions. But Kudo sprains his ankle. Matsumoto advices him to stay in bed but his love for Suetake has him to go on. In the end, he still ends up racing but the pain got to him so they lost. Nakamura cheers up the gang saying that they’ll have another chance next year, ignoring poor Mika.
 
The setting for episode 16 has Mika and her 11 Class 2A students as siblings living in a soy sauce ramen shop run by her single Mom. One day their missing Dad returns supposedly from a worldwide journey to find the elusive pork ramen recipe and though the kids are happy, mom isn’t because he left her to raise the kids alone. Dad thinks of leaving but the kids plead for him to make the ramen. He does some magic show to make the pork ramen. Then he sees Mom and passes it to her to taste. She finds it tasty and thinks he’s finally found the taste after 16 long years! They reconcile. Mika is happy with the thought that the shop will experience an increase in business and earn lots of money so they can go on a vacation. But the next day Dad leaves a note saying he’s left for a journey to find the elusive miso ramen recipe. Though Mom is okay, Mika is disheartened her vacation dream is gone. Later Mika as the eldest sister has to put up with her ‘siblings’ like bad eating habits and bearing the brunt of doing all their chores. She throws a tantrum and doesn’t want to be a big sis anymore. After school, Suetake and Kobayashi spot Mika and Matsumoto entering a realty shop. They report this to the rest and jump to conclusion that she’s leaving home. Feeling guilty that they’ve always caused her problems, they decide to act good and stop her from leaving. Mika is surprised to see everyone doing their part and being good to her but they still hear Mika talking about the new apartment. Then they just couldn’t hold back anymore and emotionally plead her to stay. But it’s revealed Mika was just helping Matsumoto to choose a place to live. Plus, Mom says Mika can’t manage to live on her own. Everyone is relieved. But the next day, they are back to their usual habits as Mika has a hard time waking them up.
 
In a decimated wasteland overrun by evil monster marauders in episode 17, double gun wielding maid outfit Ekaterina Nagare AKA Iinchou is hired by Kitagawa to rescue human hostages being held inside dilapidated Okitsu High. Seems scaredy-cat Mika gets dragged along. As the trio trek through the rundown halls, they encounter ‘beasts’ like tentacle legs Seki (he got distracted by mirror reflections of his beauty), manga zombies Watabe and Nakayama (spilled holy water to drench their irreplaceable manga work), old man beast Nakamura (gave Mika encouragement and left? Nice guy…), Kobayashi feeding Mika with cake (but Kobayashi couldn’t resist Ekaterina’s dishes and gained weight), vampire Anthony (they ignore him so poor Anthony joins the manga pair) and vampire Kudo trying to pound on hostage Suetake. He gets taken out and the other hostages which include Dad, Mom and Matsumoto are saved. They continue trekking along the eerie corridors when an illusion sends them all unconscious. When they wake up, Ekaterina only finds Mika by her side. Cut to the next episode preview and even a short ending theme followed by the opening theme! The duo are faced with the final boss, Tominaga. The other ‘beasts’ are on Ekaterina’s side after they felt they’ve been used. Tominaga has Kitagawa and Dad hostage after tricking them to buy a CD filled with Mika videos. After a short episode title screen, Tominaga is defeated as everyone rejoices. Talk about cutting time from 30 hours to 5 seconds! But Ekaterina points her gun at Kitagawa, noting she is the culprit and source of the menacing aura. Kitagawa reveals her goal to turn everyone into Mikas! Kitagawa notes her guns are toys so a fist battle ensues. Kitagawa takes a Koro doll hostage so Ekaterina surrenders. Then she herself turns into a demon and takes Mika hostage! A long confrontation-cum-staring so in the end Ekaterina activates a bomb in her gun and destroys the entire building. She leaves with the Koro doll walking towards the sunset and Mika isn’t pleased how horrible she is as everyone else is knocked out. Who ever said she was a heroine in the first place?
 
Class 2A are divided over summer and winter uniforms in episode 18. Mika just let them be. When she walks by the stairs and smells lavender, she collapses. Next thing she knows, she’s in a vast desert plains and in a middle of a fight between magic user Tominaga against swordsman Nakamura and semi-cyborg Kitagawa. Tominaga retreats after being outnumbered. Mika follows the duo and learns she has awakened in the year 3000 and there’s an ongoing war between Winter Clothes Empire (nature and magic users) and the Summer Clothes Alliance (science and technology users). Seems the former is bent on making everyone wear winter clothes but the latter opposes due to the sweltering heat and don’t want to do laundry. The war has lasted for a thousand years and Mika thinks it stems from her class’s incident. She is taken to see the shogun of the Alliance, Matsumoto. Others on her side include Nakamura, Kitagawa, Kudo, Suetake, Anthony and Kobayashi. The rest are on the Empire’s side. Everyone here has ‘terror’ nicknames based on their personalities. Suetake the Fool? Furious Kudo? Good for laughs. That night, Mika and Matsumoto had a chat and the latter says how Mika resembles closely to a friend she knew but she has changed and her personality a total opposite. Suddenly the Empire attacks the Alliance’s base. Both sides go into battle against each other with Seki taking on Anthony, Watabe-Nakamura against Kudo-Suetake, Kitagawa versus Iinchou and Nakamura faces off with Iinchou.
 
Matsumoto calls her last resort, the Kobayashi unit. She arrives in her jet fighters-turned-mecha but due to a self blooper, she crashes. Matsumoto decides to invade the Empire’s castle and due to time restrains, lots of parts were cut and fast forwarded till the end. It seems the leader of the Empire is Mika of the future, the friend Matsumoto was talking about. Both sides clash swords so past Mika is upset that they’re fighting that she tries to stop them by suggesting a compromise. Soon, future Mika and Matsumoto along with both factions become friends as they wear clothes of 3/4 sleeves length. Yeah, a 1000 year feud ended just like that. Mika collapses once more when she smells lavender while coming down the stairs after coming out from the toilet. She wakes up back in her own time and in the infirmary. Her students are relieved that she is okay and decide to continue their winter-summer clothes debate. Mika pleads them not to so they agree to drop the subject and get along with each other. Phew. Better nip the problem in the bud. You don’t know what the future holds.
 
Class 2A are discussing their plans for the school cultural festival in episode 19. As usual, each has their own weird ideas as long it’s not a play. But Cinderella Seki isn’t happy and wants to redo the play for revenge but Snow White Kudo isn’t going to allow it. They argue that they should be the princess as forgetful Suetake becomes their source for tug of war. They’re shaming the princess role, you know. Ignoring the duo, it’s decided that their class will do an onigiri stall. They create various shapes and fillings for attraction. Meanwhile Seki and Kudo are still at it and settling it via choice game. The winner is the one who eats the correct fruit that isn’t poisoned. Unfortunately they selected poisoned ones on their turn and the round goes on and on. A tie at 62 tries each! Surprised they aren’t poisoned to death. During the festival, nobody stops by Class 2A’s stall so Tominaga notes the stiff competition since Suetake and Anthony went around buying delicious food from other classes. Business-minded Tominaga gets Mika to go round taking orders and do delivery. But every time she comes back with the customer’s long winded absurd orders, she forgets their orders. Same results even if she went back and asked again. Ever thought of writing it down?
 
Suddenly an ugly cuckoo bird lands on their stall. According to Iinchou’s encyclopaedia, this bird is an omen for bad luck and appears when a business is about to go bankrupt. Tominaga thinks of cutting and stuffing them in the onigiris but Mika doesn’t want any killing. Suddenly more cuckoos perched on their stall so much so it transforms into a dilapidated one. Iinchou forms a Cuckoo Bird Task Force to rid the menace. Anthony suggests performing exorcism but the birds violently peck at him. Iinchou unleashes her seduction tactic using Cinderella Seki and Snow White Kudo but the birds got annoyed and got them into bandages. Finally her tearful parental pleas strategy using Kobayashi, Nakamura and Suetake to act as the birds’ parents and plead them to stop fails and the trio in similar fate as their predecessors. Looking at the casualties at hand, Iinchou disbands the task force. Don’t want to get injured herself, eh? Dad returns from his African business trip to catch her festival. After learning the problem, he blows a cuckoo whistle he got during his trip to send the birds flying away. Mika is all fired up to continue with the festival but the bell rings signalling its end as the students prepare to clean up and send Mika into dismay.
 
A gloomy episode 20 that lacks its usual gags because one morning Mom informs Mika that her uncle has managed to arrange and match-make a suitor for Mika. Thing is, Mika didn’t panic or give much thought and agrees to it when Matsumoto says about the varied experience she will get by attending a marriage meeting (not to mention the fancy food in high class restaurants). After school, Kitagawa has a chat with Mika about her quitting teaching once she gets married. You can tell she’s worried because she’s not at her usual glomping. Even you can tell her other students are worried though they assert it’s her personal business and it’s her right to be happy. On a weekend, Dad takes Mika out shopping and while dinning at an expensive restaurant, Dad mentions how she has grown up a lot right before his eyes because all the while he has always looked at her as a child. Mika asks if he’s okay with that so he replies if it makes her happy, he’d love to see her get married. Of course you can tell by their body reactions that they aren’t so thrilled. The night before the meeting, Kitagawa couldn’t sleep so she went to wait outside Mika’s house in the wee hours. Not only her, but the rest of the Class 2A too. I’m impressed that they stood there till morning when Mika leaves. They wish her good luck so Mika thanks them before going on her way as sad Kitagawa sheds a tear. The new school term starts and Class 2A are now third year seniors. They wonder who their new homeroom teacher is and to their surprise it’s Mika! It seems the other party rejected her after knowing she can’t cook or do laundry. Ah well, continue to be a single. You could say the whole class is relieved as Mika-deficient Kitagawa starts teasing and glomping Mika to her heart’s content. Welcome back, Mika. Back to normal, we love you no matter how odd everyone is.
 
And so Mika and her class will continue their usual antics for at least another year. Unless they plan to fail and keep her company for another year, that is. So now do you think why it’s so hard to take Mika seriously as a teacher? That’s right. She never changes. Even in the end, she is still that cute little childish girl. With her students’ personalities I guess it make things even more ‘chaotic’. But would they have it any other way? It is through all those ‘fun’ times that they develop an unbreakable bond among each other. There isn’t much plot or storyline expected especially from this genre but it was fun when they mix several other themes and genre parodies in some of the episodes, though you can particularly guess the outcome if you know the characters’ personalities well.
 
Later due to my petty curiosity, I did a little research on why this series has 20 number of episodes instead of the usual 12-13 or 24-26 per season. It dawned to me that the first 13 episodes were originally aired in Japan and the remaining 7 episodes served as OVA episodes when you bought the DVD. However when the series got licensed in the USA, they showed all 20 of them in sequence. I guess this explains why the episode numbering of the final third of the series is obviously different than its subtitled one. Besides, due to the length of each episode which is similar to those of the TV version, it did not occur to me that they were OVA episodes. Unlike most specials or extras that come together in purchased anime DVDs these days which last only a handful of minutes and if they need to make a full length one, that would be just 1 of 2 episodes. Come to think of it, if that’s the case, Anthony only made his appearance in the OVA, right?
 
Being an old school anime produced back in year 2004, the drawing and art is of course reflective of that era. But overall the characters are drawn in a cute form (but short of being a total chibi). Because of that, I feel that some of the characters closely resemble each other. Maybe just change the hairstyle or hair colour a little and you’ve got another character. For instance when Anthony was first introduced, I thought he was Kudo dyed his hair blonde! What does this tell you about the minor background characters then? If you pay attention, that is. Okay, they’re not clones but they look so generic. On a trivial note, the scene changers in between are different depending on the theme for that particular episode. Whether they are expressions of the characters or just inanimate items. And if there are several scenes, then there would be more of them. For the first 2/3 of the series, the mid-intermission is fixed showing Mika in a group pic with her students. Then the final third of it, each mid-intermission is different as it shows the characters in random poses or/and outfits depending on the theme of that episode.
 
I find the voice roles do fit the character and their personalities perfectly. For instance, Mika is pretty convincing when she starts whining or in a pinch. She sounds like a little girl in trouble. So cute. Is it no wonder why Kitagawa is all over her? She’s a perfect role for a stalker. Then I find Watabe’s voice to be boisterous and loud especially when he blows his top when Nakayama does something not right. Even Nakayama at times sounds like she’s full of determination for her senpai. Kudo is ‘full of passion’ whenever Suetake is in topic while Anthony sure sounds funny with his Japanese accent. Iinchou’s voice do make her sound scheming at times while Nakamura’s slow and low speaking does make him live up to his nickname as an old man. And if you’re hoping for chemistry between Iinchou and Nakamura as assumed in the beginning, don’t get your hopes up. Nothing serious between them. Same case with Watabe and Nakayama. He’ll always be her senpai and nothing more.
 
The first opening theme Oshieteageru is a lively rock tune by can/goo. Sounds pretty okay to me if you consider expecting the hype and craziness of Mika and her students. The second opening theme is Juutai No Love Affair by DROPS. Somehow I find this pop piece to be weird during the verses of the solo female voice especially when she’s singing in squeaky tone. And when they go "High, high, high, high", it sounded a little shrilly as compared to the more rock version of that same line for the first opening theme. Another odd thing during the opening credits animation, I thought it was okay that the characters’ names come onscreen when they appear. But names of other things like "Spring" or "Students" during such a scene too? Yeah, I can see that myself. The first ending theme resembles more like a fitness workout song. Entitled Furare Kibun De Rock ‘n’ Roll by DROPS, it’s suitable if you intend to do some stretching exercise. Or you could just hammer the alarm clock and continue sleeping like what Mika does at the end of its ending credits animation. Takuma Wada sings the second ending theme called Ai No Chikara. It gives an impression it’s sort of a tropical carnival-like song but oddly the manly male voice seems to make it sound odd on the overall part. Or else you may not mind them as seen in this ending credits animation as Mika happily skips along.
 
So it doesn’t matter how tall or short your teacher is. As long as he/she makes class and lessons fun for everyone then that’s all that matters. Okay, maybe having too much fun would be a different story. Three years of high school seems short when you’re having so much fun. Will Mika ever grow up in terms of her physique and mind? Will Iinchou ever grow tired of Koro-chan one day? Will Kitagawa get tired of Mika one day? Just as Kudo will for Suetake? Or will he ever realize his one-sided love? Will Nakamura turn into a young man when he grows old like in the case of that Benjamin dude? Will Kobayashi get to eat her favourite food without worrying about getting fat? Will Seki really turn into a woman one day? Will Watabe ever tire of his manga and Nakayama ever get better on hers? But one thing is for sure. They sure had a swell time now.
 

Doki Doki School Hours

Nyan Koi

August 21, 2010

If you’re a cat lover, then you should watch this anime, Nyan Koi. Just kidding. Well basically cats are the main theme for this series so for those who want to get a little insight on how cats think, maybe you should give this show a try. Then again, probably that isn’t accurate. Who knows what is going on in a cat’s mind. I’m not a cat person so it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to say how such domesticated feline creatures are moody and ungrateful. Oops. Please don’t hate me cat lovers.
 
In this romance comedy series, we have this second year high school guy, Junpei Kousaka. Apart from being the typical ‘normal’ guy in many animes you see, such as having a secret crush on a sweet girl he secretly likes, Kaede Mizuno, and pals with a couple of classmates, Haruhiko Endou (some eroge lover) and Kouta Kawamura, Junpei’s not a cat hater. But he dislikes them. There’s a reason to it. He’s allergic to cats. Well at least Junpei’s case isn’t as bad as Ranma who totally has a phobia of cats. To make things worse, his other family members especially his mom Shizue and little sister Suzu loves them so much and have a chubby face-with-a-frown cat, Nyamsus. In fact, a very big majority of the residents in this town are cat lovers! Oh yeah. He’s going to die from his allergies one day.
 
But that isn’t the bad part. His life is about to get worse in episode 1 when he accidentally breaks the head of a cat deity statue, Nekojizou-sama. So kids, remember when you kick the can into the bin, make sure you kick properly. I’m sure his intentions are good when he leaves a can of cat food next too it. But as the shrine monk, Keizou Kirishima, compliments him, Junpei is dismayed to learn he is being cursed. What is the first symptom of the cat curse? Well, you’re not to blame if you think you’re going crazy by hearing thoughts of cats and even talk back to them! And Nyamsus is a pretty sarcastic cat, isn’t she. Keizou ‘takes’ Junpei to read boring lecture-cum-history of who knows what. So to cut things short, Nyamsus friend and a pet cat of the monk, Tama, explains that in order to lift his curse, Junpei needs to fulfil 100 good deeds to cats. Failing which, he will turn into a cat himself. Not good because he’ll die of his allergies. Didn’t I say this earlier?
 
Even if Junpei is reluctant to do his first good task of freeing a couple of kittens from their ‘abusive’ master (seems all cat problems are introduced by Nyamsus and Tama. Like doing a service centre, eh? Or merely wanting to see Junpei’s misery?), he thinks there’s another way to lift the curse. On his way home after doing futile research on it, he meets Kaede and he jumps on the first chance to help her with her errands. Then they bump into some menacing afro guy so Junpei becomes a man to protect her (though in fact, he’s scared sh*t). It’s revealed that thug is Keizou in disguise. Junpei and Kaede talk at the park and he learns Kaede’s family are mainly dog lovers because just like him they are allergic. But Kaede is an exception as she loves cats. Thus the reason she comes to this park to feed and play with the stray kittens. It dawned to him that Kaede is the ‘abusive’ master the kittens were talking about. Incessant squeezing seems like a death crusher, eh? Junpei wanted to say something but the felines are closing in and since his mind is clouded with their thoughts, he yells from the top of his voice for them to hands off. Of course Kaede thinks he’s directing it to her so she apologizes and quickly leaves. So much for being cool and all that. Wish your love life goodbye. However next day in school, Junpei gets a pleasant surprise from Kaede because she isn’t mad over the incident and wish to come over to Junpei’s place some time to play with Nyamsus. Well, she’s not the kind of girl who would hold a grudge.
 
Junpei’s unlucky days continue in episode 2 as he helps out other cats no matter how small or big (or absurd) the requests are. To his dismay, he learns he has to keep this cat curse a secret and anyone else who finds out will turn into a cat himself/herself. No reckless moves, buddy. Other than that, the school’s cultural festival is coming up and we’re introduced to a hideous make-up manba-type ganguro girl, Kanako Sumiyoshi, supposedly Junpei’s childhood friend. You know what those constant bickering usually means and ends up to. Junpei had to quickly improvise to avoid the rest of his classmates seeing him talk to a cat when Tama appears to call his assistance for another request. Some may call it cat abuse but nobody saw it, right? Seems this time a cat wants Junpei to thank a kind girl who has always been feeding her in school. He thinks it’s some cute lovely lass but she turns out to be Kanako instead. His fear is almost realized when she catches him talking to the cats but after a short flashback about their childhood past, she decides to make him her slave for the day. During the festival, Kanako takes Junpei around so when Kaede and her pals find out that he is her slave, they get the wrong idea. Another misperception for that poor guy. During the break, Kanako remembers her past whereby she gave him a cute handmade Nyamsus doll as a sign of their friendship. But the next day, she saw him giving it away to another girl and that’s when she sort of hated him.
 
The duo continue to chat about that past. Junpei thinks she started the fight but she thinks otherwise. Somebody from the upper floor spills a bucket of water without looking that the duo are below. Junpei’s attempts to get her out of the way has him accidentally grabbed her hand. She isn’t amused and chases him through the hallways and corridors. Then at the staircase, she breaks down though she gives an excuse that it is ruining her make-up. Kaede soon comes by and takes her away to refresh herself. Back in their classroom, everyone is stunned to see Kanako without her make-up. Initially they couldn’t recognize her. Besides, she looks much better this way in my opinion. At the end of the day, Junpei manages to fulfil the cat’s request of thanks and at the same time, clears up the misunderstanding of the cat doll. Then, he showed it to her and did not give it as the cat doll is still in his house. Kanako in a way feels comforted and leaves. And for the rest of the school days, Kanako ditches her ganguro make-up and comes to school looking less a delinquent. Couldn’t say about her brute character, though. Oh, did I mention she too developed feelings for Junpei?
 
In episode 3, Junpei meets a busty ditzy local mailwoman, Chizuru Mochizuki. How can this university student be a part time postman when she doesn’t have a good sense of direction? Because of that, Junpei has to reluctantly guide her around town. Nyamsus and Tama are okay with the idea since he will meet other cats in need and help them out. Yeah, killing 2 birds with 1 stone. Or not. Sure he has a hard time fulfilling weird cat requests, some very dangerous ones like getting its collar accidentally thrown into a dog’s compound and to silly ones like helping to draw a birthday card for her master. Other than learning Chizuru’s ambition to take up this job due to her hopeless sense of direction was due to a senpai she admired back then and the wonderful feeling of connecting people’s feelings, Junpei also have a hard time trying to hide from his friends and sister. What would they think if they see him with another woman? Too late, the one girl he didn’t want him to see, Kaede happens to be walking her dogs when Chizuru gives Junpei a comforting faceboob hug. Another misconception. Hopes of getting in her good side are as good as nil. At the end of the day, Chizuru finishes her job and hopes he would help again. Ahahaha. I’m not sure if she’s joking. Wait, she isn’t.
 
Next day in school, Junpei remembers the time how he first liked Kaede. During his first day at high school a year ago, he saw her trying to save a kitten stuck on a tree. She slipped. He fell for her, she fell on him. Not to mention her acrobatic moves which has both her feet on his stomach! She even slapped him hard to see if he was okay in her panic! Talk about shock treatment. Then they part ways when the entrance ceremony is about to begin. Junpei is surprised to Kaede as the student representative giving her speech. She tells of her wonderful encounter today and Junpei takes it as a hint she’s talking about him. Unfortunately, the other loser guys think it’s them too. In present time, Junpei clears up that misunderstanding of being smothered by the busty mailwoman to Kaede. She seems okay with it but Kanako sure isn’t as she drags him away to make him spill every detail. A senpai in track suit, Nagi Ichinose, comes by to remind Kaede that their track club has started. Nagi notes who she hates Junpei.
 
The reason why Nagi hates him is because she thinks he is making her beloved Kaede look sad in episode 4. Is she some sort of a yuri person? Junpei soon receives a letter. He thinks it’s a love letter but it turns out to be a challenge letter by Nagi to meet him at a designated place in 3 days time. He rips the paper and makes don’t know. Nagi actually waited there for 3 days and when he is no-show it’s obvious she is pissed! She rushes back to confront him but when she sees Kanako, she gets taken in by her beauty and not to mention groped her boobs! Nagi tells him straight the she wants to challenge him over Kaede. Kanako agrees because if Nagi wins and gets Kaede, this means she will get Junpei. However Nagi collapses so Junpei, Kaede and Kanako take her back to her home to find she is the daughter of the local yakuza group! Woah! Don’t mess around. Sure they want to leave but gramps would love to show them their ‘hospitality’ and ‘gratefulness’ for taking care of Nagi. As he guides the girls to the bath area, Junpei meets Nagi’s cat, Josephine. Seems his status as the cursed one who goes around fulfilling cats’ wishes has spread far and wide. His request is for Junpei to help Nagi.
 
Gramps takes Junpei to see Nagi seeing that she is awake now. Okay, 2 of them alone. Not a good sign. She has a wooden sword in hand. Not a very good sign. Nagi is going to settle the duel but before she could strike him, the lightning strike sends her shivering in fear and getting all clingy over Junpei. Yup, even tough girls have a fear of lightning. Seems it stemmed from a traumatic experience when she saw her dad got zapped by one. She tries to continue the duel blindfolded and during the calm of the storm, Junpei finds out that Nagi doesn’t love Kaede. Just that she loves beautiful things that she lacks of. Uh… The next lightning flash sends her into another frantic as she seeks refuge in her personal mummy tomb! Junpei being the nice guy, listens to her problems and promises he won’t laugh or rat on her. After offering her words of comfort, Nagi’s personality suddenly changes. It’s as though she has fallen in love with him. Wait, she already has. She even gets close to him and asks him directly what kind of girl he likes. This freaks Junpei out as he tries to leave. Gramps breaks down the door to subdue the menace he thinks in the form of Junpei. In the end as the guests leave, Junpei walks home as Josephine tells him how Nagi was an ordinary girl who liked pretty things but was rejected by the first guy she confessed her love to. Ever since, she became more tomboyish and did away with all those girly stuff so he thought she would be more feminine if she fell in love again (so that’s what his request is). Junpei is still oblivious that he has fulfilled Josephine’s request. Next day in school, Nagi becomes too close to Junpei that she puts her desk right next to his. Hey, I thought she is a third year senior? Willing to go down a grade? Too bad that’s just another problem for Junpei. And another one in the form of gramps and his yakuza men vowing to protect their Nagi oujo-sama forever. This guy is sure getting into lots of trouble. Better lift the curse fast.
 
Nagi gives Junpei tickets to an amusement park in episode 5 after calling him a sinner, thief of beautiful things for stealing both her heart and Kaede’s, among others. Seems Kanako and Kaede are invited too. Besides, this is also some sort of challenge for Junpei to decide which of the girls he wants to date. Junpei has no qualms telling Nagi that his heart is still with Kaede (Nagi getting knocked out?) but somehow can’t sum up the courage to tell her. So Nagi throws down the gauntlet and says if Junpei doesn’t Kaede’s boyfriend by the end of the day, he will have to marry her immediately! While Nagi talks with Kaede, ride-lover Kanako takes Junpei on the various rides the park has to offer. Seems this park belongs to the Ichinose yakuza group so you can count on gramps and the other men to interfere to make Nagi’s noble wish come true but flopped. Junpei suspected Nagi must’ve told Kaede something since she’s acting a little strange whenever they talk. Then in the haunted house, Junpei got a chance to embrace Kaede but their lovely moment is spoiled when the other girls take out the ‘monsters and ghosts’. Next, Junpei and Kaede got setup in a Ferris wheel together and their carriage tilted so Junpei tripped and made it looked like they’re in a kissing position at least from Kanako and Nagi’s point of view. At the end of the day when they head home, Kaede remembered Nagi’s word about how she hints Junpei may look at her more than just a classmate, the reason why she can’t really look at him in the eye now.
 
Next day in school, Kaede, Kanako and Nagi chat and probably trying to get hints if Junpei’s dating who or have feelings for anyone. Kaede brings up the part whereby Chizuru hugged Junpei and wonders if a boy would hug a girl without caring who she is. This sends Kanako and Nagi on alert offensive mode. I don’t know, they went to feed him dog biscuits. But they sure looked pretty upset. After school, Kaede tries to follow Junpei. That guy happened to walk pass the Keizou’s temple shrine and sees a black cat before him. How ominous. Then a blonde twintail girl approaches him and knows that he has been cursed by Nekojizou-sama. Unknown to them, Kaede is hiding behind a nearby car eavesdropping.
 
Junpei is surprised that somebody else knows about his curse in episode 6 so he gets an earful from Nyamsus and Tama. In school, that blonde twintail girl approaches and gives him a love letter before going away. To add to the confusion, she returns and rips it apart and you could say this would be the fastest confession rejection in history. Split personality? She tells him to come to the temple afterwards. There, she says that she has strong spiritual sense and threatens him to hasten his cruse process and shows him lots of love SMS for him. Are you confused? She even uses ‘Tama’ to get back at him. Before things get any complicated, her twin shows up. Ah yes. Should’ve seen this coming. Kotone seems to like Junpei but Akari isn’t happy about that because she thinks everyone will leave her. Just like her mom, Tama (yup, that’s her pet cat) and eventually Kotone. So after Kotone slaps some sense into her sister, they apologize to Junpei. So why does Kotone like Junpei? Well, she did mention she likes unfortunate men. Scary… She’s like a stalker… Plus, the twins are Keizou’s daughters and Kotone’s black pet cat, Noir, has some sort of a love-hate relationship with Tama. Meow! Shizue and Suzu sure love it when Junpei brings new girls back home. It’s like their whole life is one big boring drama and they get their kicks out of it.
 
With the twins part of his harem, oops I mean part of the gang, Junpei’s next mission is to resolve Tama and Noir’s bickering. So he hears their past how Noir was Keizou’s favoured cat till Tama showed up at the temple just because he had a tortoise-colour-like back and he focused all his attention to him and Noir was cast aside. It reached boiling point when Tama bragged he found a better cat companion in Nyamsus. I have no comment about that. Tama being the stubborn guy, refuses to apologize or get along. No choice, reluctant Junpei takes them for a walk and hope they repair their relationship. On the way, they encounter Kaede and her dogs. Tama is ready to protect Noir but turned into a chicken last minute. Luckily Kaede’s dogs are friendly so when Noir goes into offensive stance, Tama thanks her and that he is useless without her. You could say their relationship is back to normal (tiny sarcasm and bickering included). But because they are being noisy, Junpei can’t hear Kaede and yells at them to shut up. Kaede takes this the wrong way and goes away. Not again. While the twins are comforting Junpei at the park (Akari is tsundere), his condition is about the get worse because Nagi and gramps were asking Chizuru directions to his house so she points out he was hanging out with the twintail pair. Not good. That’s one. Number two, Kanako spots Kaede crying and it must have something to do with Junpei, right? Poor Junpei gets a big round of beating, including from Kaede’s dogs (Kotone loving it? She loves Junpei or the misery?). Only after that they get to know what’s going on. Should’ve hear him out first, eh? They learn about the twins and Kanako hopes it won’t get complicated (you bet it will) while Nagi loves their beautiful symmetry.
 
Junpei’s class has a field trip to Kyoto in episode 7. Seems Junpei has snuck a cat, Masa, on his way here as part of his request. While they visit various historic places, Junpei has no choice but to fulfil other local cats’ wishes. See, his reputation has spread so wide and far. As usual, which field trip is complete without the hotspring and the boys trying to take a peek. Junpei is trying to warn the other guys but you know boys will be boys. A pair of grateful cats tell Junpei a spot where he can peep best so I guess he doesn’t want to disappoint their kindness. Well, he slipped and that means going through the other side. You can guess what happens next. So as payback, Kaede and Kanako have Junpei tag along and treat them to stuff on their free day. As usual, he has to go help a lost kitten and is eventually reunited with his dad, Masa. As a reward, the cats hint Junpei and the rest to follow them. It leads to the main family branch of the Ichinose yakuza group! So they’re beloved pet cats of the group. Junpei and his pals are treated as guests while Masa has a quarrel with his wife due to some unfaithful fling thingy. Even they do it in the animal’s world. They leave at the end of the day. Junpei, Kaede and Kanako are at a river bank, supposedly some dating spot couples go to create the perfect mood but the place was filled to the brim with other couples. Junpei and Kanako have their own fantasies about coming here together alone with their loved ones when Kaede reminds them that it’s time to head back. The next day, they buy souvenirs before their train trip back.
 
The twins seem to be making Junpei’s house their regular rendezvous point in episode 8. Shizue and Suzu would be thrilled if they become new additions to the family. I’m sure Junpei isn’t. Anyway they’re here because of another cat’s request. Some weak hopeless cat called Micchi wants Junpei to help train him to at least catch sparrows so he could have a chance to ask the cat he loves out. While jogging together, Junpei spots Kaede so Micchi goes into hiding. They chat and soon Nagi comes by has Junpei join the track club’s tryout. She asserts if he can’t end up with Kaede, he will have to get engaged to her instead. Before he knows it, he is being assisted by Kaede in several sports. Poor Micchi got left behind. So next morning, Junpei goes to get forgotten Micchi (can’t believed he waited there all night!) and try to resume training but Kaede comes by again. Junpei got too close to her so he starts sweating as she wipes it off with her handkerchief. He starts to panic and rushes off taking her handkerchief with him. Poor Micchi left behind again. Tired of it all, Micchi plots his revenge by entering Junpei’s school, the girl’s locker room where Kaede is changing. After her sports session, Kaede leaves and meets Junpei on the streets. He is going to give back her cleaned and ironed handkerchief but he pulls out a bra instead. Kaede recognizes it as hers. Of all the misunderstandings, this has got to be the worse. Kaede runs away while the onlookers give that unpleasant it’s-bad-to-steal-girl’s-underwear look. His life is so over.
 
On a rainy, Junpei spots Micchi with Kaede’s handkerchief in his mouth. Micchi admits he is the culprit who put Kaede’s undergarments in Junpei’s bag. Naturally Junpei is mad but Micchi breaks down saying it’s all his fault. He got jealous after seeing him getting love-dovey with Kaede and wants to do the same with his girl too so he’s got the right to feel envious. Junpei feels he is right so he apologizes and promises to train him. So the human-cat combo over the days train their best so much so you might think if all those training were necessary just to catch a sparrow. Well, all of it did pay off because Micchi is now a very fit cat. Not to mention the change in his sissy voice into a deep low sexy manly one. He thanks Junpei and off he goes to prove his worth to his loved one. Meanwhile Nagi and Kanako are wondering why Kaede is a little down. So when she wonders if boys are interested in girls’ underwear, the first thought is, you bet, Junpei’s fault somehow. Faster than a speeding bullet, Nagi and Kanako rush to Junpei to seek details of him stealing Kaede’s underwear. Who is going to believe that a cat but it in his bag? Thankfully, Haruhiko actually saw it happened. So everybody laughs it off as a misunderstanding. Kaede soon learns of it as Junpei later returns her handkerchief. She apologizes but before he could say anything else (probably confess), Kaede rushes back to class which is starting soon. And Micchi has won the heart of his girl and wishes Junpei to do his best.
 
As Haruhiko suggested, to help study for their upcoming exams, the gang head to the indoor pool for fun in episode 9. What do expect? The library? Need to relax before the real battle comes, right? So everybody is there, the twins and even Nagi and her yakuza men. Yeah, swimsuit fanservice. Due to Nagi and Kanako’s little fighting, they accidentally hit Kaede as she slips underwater. Junpei catches hold of her but at the same time grabbed her boobs. Junpei hears another cat’s request to get out of this place when Kanako spots him and teases that he can communicate with them. They both help to let it out before heading back to the pool. Kaede feels a little gloomy when she spots Junpei walking back in with Kanako. No time for worries because they need to have fun to the max since they’re here. Later Kanako pays Junpei a visit and learns he has a cold. While Kanako plays the good housewife and fixes him a warm meal (Shizue and Suzu are out for the day), Nyamsus and Tama bring a fat cat for Junpei to fulfil his request. Seems he wants his master to feed him his regular diet of rich and sumptuous meal instead of some unappetizing healthy one (the cat eats better food than the kid!). Apparently his master got concerned over a TV programme about overweight cats that die early. Junpei thinks it’s good for him to go on a diet but the fatty starts being selfish which snaps Junpei. He chides him that he was being concern of his well-being and orders him to come to his senses. Enough to freak him out. So all that letting out of angry air, it’s no surprise he collapses inside. Kanako puts him back on the couch and even thinks of kissing him but backs out. When Junpei comes to, Kanako has left. Nyamsus informs him how the chubby tabby has realized and will go on a diet. Shizue and Suzu return home and their senses tell them another girl made Junpei a meal and are thrilled with it. Kanako ponders about her feelings for Junpei and wonders why she almost did that because she thinks Junpei likes Kaede. She felt it was easier when she didn’t realize she liked him.
 
The twins are seen chasing down an evil cat spirit in episode 10. I’m not sure about their outfits that give an impression that they’re cosplaying as a magical girl and priestess. In school, everyone is glad they passed their tests. Except for Kanako. Yup, she flopped big time. Blaming that Junpei-got-sick-incident, she now has to write an essay on the town’s history as a retest. I suppose that means dragging along Junpei, right? Haruhiko suggests asking the twins since they live at the temple. Probably a big mistake because now they have to hear Keizou’s eternally long lecture. Kanako’s already sleeping on her assignment… Junpei manages to escape the lecture courtesy of the twins as he learns Akari’s cold personality because she doesn’t have any friends as they keep their distance while Kotone’s weird personality, let’s just say she’s weird ever since she’s young (trying to give her teacher a voodoo doll?). At the end of the long talk, the twins give the gang a tour of the town. Places which seriously has nothing to do with Kanako’s assignment. Then they go shop for souvenirs. Kanako, Kouta and Haruhiko spot a Maneki Neko statue with a funny face and get an urge to play pranks on it. However Akari notes that it has a spirit residing in it and those who taint it will get cursed. The trio start teasing the statue and Kanako eventually draw whiskers on it. This leads to Akari performing serious cleansing ritual!
 
That night, Junpei decides to go out to find out more about the twins’ dispelling magic since Nyamsus didn’t believe in that crap (what about man talking to cats then?!). He accidentally spots the twins in their getup chasing a malevolent cat spirit. Yeah, note the magical girl henshin scene too. They go into action trying to catch it and seriously they can hop from roof to roof like ninjas?! The evil cat spirit turns out to be the one of the Maneki Neko. Akari uses her powerful magic to seal it but the cat avoids. Since this uses lots of her energy, Akari is weak and needs to replenish them via eating Pokky chocolate sticks?! Are you kidding me?! I didn’t know that had ‘nutritional’ values in them. Maneki Neko is causing a nuisance and Junpei is in a pinch because Akari is weak and Kotone is all clingy over him and doesn’t want to let go (WTF?!). In the end, Junpei has no choice but to feed Akari the chocolate sticks mouth to mouth. Oh ho. Don’t you just envy this Kotone? Akari gets her strength back (in an instant? And just only one stick?) and seals the menace for good. Kotone wishes Junpei won’t tell anyone else about this while Akari continues to be tsundere. Junpei gives them the souvenir they bought earlier in the day but forgot to take them back and also gives Akari the Pokky stick box and teases her not to eat too much or else she’ll become fat. Maybe he does deserve the slap. Next day in school, several girls start to make friends with Akari and Junpei suddenly has a bad feeling. Seems the Nekojizou-sama head rolled off.
 
Seems in episode 11, Keizou was coming back from the cabaret with a female escort (some monk he is). The lady wants her allowance but he starts giving excuses and accidentally kicked the can and it hit Nekojizou-sama’s head off. So he has the townspeople to donate money to repair it though they know it’s his sinful habit of visiting the cabaret. Junpei feels guilty because he was the one responsible for breaking Nekojizou-sama’s head in the first place. After learning from the twins the temple has no more money and that the spirit of Nekojizou-sama is angry, Junpei decides to take up a part time job to help in its repair. This leads him to take up the postman job but he decides to back out after learning it was Chizuru who placed the employment note. Too bad he can’t get away now. During his delivery, he spots Kanako doing part time selling Christmas cakes. Kanako thinks he is doing a job to treat her but he dismisses it and leaves. This leads Kanako to think he is saving to buy a Christmas present for Kaede and confessing to her. On another day, Junpei happen to deliver letters to Kanako’s residence. She receives a movie ticket that she won via some contest and forces Junpei to go out with her on that day. Since they’re early, they go shopping before the movie starts. Junpei brings the cat doll and redeems a free gift as part of the term stated in the ticket and gives it to Kanako, surprising her. While watching the movie, Kanako remembers the time when they’re small when Junpei cried because he can’t play with Nyamsus as he is allergic to cats so Kanako decided to play on his behalf and soon created that cat doll for him. Since Junpei is crying like a little girl watching the movie, Kanako has to ditch her plans to confess to him and settles to be his buddy for now. Next day, Kaede passes by the park to see Junpei saving a kitten from a tree. She gets confused to see him talking to the cats and mentioning about the curse. Then in the post office just before he sets off for work, Junpei gets the shock of his life when he starts sprouting cat ears! Has the curse taken effect? See, take so long lah.
 
Somehow I got a feeling that Kotone being a stalker was a good thing because in episode 12, by sticking some GPS onto him, she got to find out where Junpei is. Well, she’s worried that Junpei didn’t move from his post office position for some time. With a little distraction, Kotone manages to sneak Junpei out and hides him back at the temple. At the same time, Kanako calls Junpei to jokingly tell him that Kaede’s with her pouring out her worries that he might be cursed! Of course he slams down the phone. While Kaede is really worried over the events of Junpei’s curse, Kanako feels she and that idiot should spend more time together. With a hat to cover his cat ears, Nyamsus comes up with a plan. That is, to call Kaede and meet up with her. His acting sure sucks. Next day at the mall, they meet up and he tells her straight that he is cursed. By the Maneki Neko. The twins come along to do the cleansing ritual once more. All this as part of the plan to allay Kaede’s suspicions of the curse. Nagi in a weird outfit happen to pass by and accidentally pulls off Junpei’s hat in her excitement to reveal his feline ears. Shocked Junpei runs away as the cats and twins go after him. Kaede may still be suspicious but Nagi isn’t because she thinks it’s some cosplay competition, the reason for her to be in that outfit. Plus, Haruhiko and Kouta are in one too. Kaede soon goes after him.
 
Their worst fears are realized when they see Junpei’s clothes strewn all over the street. True enough, Junpei turns into a cat himself and is weakened by his own allergies. Kaede spots the cat (Junpei) at the park and has a feeling it is similar to Junpei. She holds him in her arms as Junpei notes he couldn’t care less if he dies now. Then all the cats that Junpei previously helped appear and surround them. Kaede finally understands that Junpei has always treated cats nicely and thanks him and that there is no way the curse would exist. That’s when a streak of light from heaven strikes Junpei. It’s like he’s energizes so he gets off Kaede’s arms and into the bushes. Next thing he knows, he is back in his human form. But wait, he’s naked. Oh God! Poor Kaede has seen and heard too much from this guy that a girl her age probably shouldn’t have seen. Then the rest comes by and well you know the awkwardness. Some say it’s part of his cosplaying thingy and some just wants to beat that pervert up. Like Kanako. Here comes the pain and embarrassment. Two in one, man. As New Year’s Day approaches, Junpei notes that his curse has been temporarily stopped but not completely lifted. Well, it’s better than nothing. He continues to work as a postman under Chizuru and offer food to Nekojizou-sama. While at the temple praying with Kanako and Kaede (well, we know who Junpei and Kaede pray to be with who they want but for Kaede, she prays that she wants to deepen her relationship with Junpei. What does that tell you?), the bell suddenly falls down on Junpei, Kaede and then Tama. Keizou and Akari are pissed that he broke the 50 million Yen bell! They want him to pay back. Wait a minute, they’re blaming him? Later as the gang walk to school, Junpei confronts Kaede and is going to confess his feelings. Finally? Not really. Chizuru bumps him away to give him a letter from his dad.
 
As obviously hinted at the end of that final episode, there is a speculation that a second season may be produced. Maybe in capital letters. Not confirmed. Nothing definitive. But overall for this season I guess I could say everything is okay. Though I was hoping that Junpei would confess his feelings to Kaede somewhere in the series, that last part came close but I felt that part was just meant to be comic relief. Maybe if the series do get a sequel then maybe he’s got another shot at confession. Don’t waste it, pal. It’s going to be tough since he has unwittingly garnered a few girls in his harem. Tough girl Kanako may use the need-to-be-around-him-so-he-won’t-make-a-fool-out-of-himself excuse to stick around, Nagi’s noble and honest intention to let Junpei choose his girlfriend (if he ever realizes that) may seem superficial because she too mentions that she is destined to marry him. Unless she finds someone else more beautiful than him. Count on Kotone to be a serial stalker till Junpei becomes a lucky man. I’m wondering if she would still love him if he loses all his bad luck. Maybe she should shift her attention to that million Yen debt butler Hayate, eh? And Akari? Tsundere… That says it all. Too bad I thought Chizuru would be part of it but in my opinion I find her role to be rather redundant. I thought she would have at least a little impact rather than just be a minor comic relief for getting lost or fanservice purpose. I mean, compared to Haruhiko and Kouta’s role, I’d expected something a little more (please don’t misunderstand me). Hmm… Maybe that misunderstood boobs smothering in front of Kaede and getting a job at the local post office are events ‘significantly related’ to her.
 
I’m not sure why Nekojizou-sama chose that time to suspend Junpei’s deed. I thought it was getting real upset since Junpei was slacking on his good deed repayment job to cats. Not to mention its deadly aura seen emitting from the statue. Wasn’t that the reason he turned into a cat? But I guess it’s not like he didn’t do anything so I suppose he got a little reprieve. Plus, maybe he got a little ‘recommendation’ from Kaede when she realized that he really cared for them although he was allergic. So if his curse is suspended, I wonder if Junpei can still listen and talk to cats. It would be a real pain if he were to continue listening to Nyamsus and Tama. Though Nyamsus may seem grumpy and pushy but she still cares for Junpei and is grateful to him because he gave her a home. Yeah so cats may be ungrateful on the exterior but who knows what they’re thinking, right? If he can still talk to cats, I wonder if he has to go round fulfilling requests. Well, Tama did a pretty ‘good’ job in making him famous. Call him the Cat Whisperer. Though I don’t think Junpei’s bad luck and misfortune could rival that of Hayate, but hopefully he doesn’t break other deity statues. Think of all the chaos if he could start talking to dogs, rabbits, birds and other pets. Yeah, like he’s developed some sort of communication skill with animals and maybe if he does make a career out of it, you know who to call if your lizard’s stuck in the gutter, right? Just joking. I just hope Keizou would use the money wisely to make cat deity statues more durable and not easily broken at the mere touch instead of spending on cabaret girls. Is he really fit to be a monk? It would be troublesome if a huge number of people got stuck with the same curse. Maybe that way the cats can be kings for a long time to come.
 
At the end of each episode, there is a short segment called Nyan Koma hosted by Nyamsus and Tama just before the next episode preview. After a short comical skit from the characters, viewers can get insightful information about cats depending on the theme of that particular episode. Since I know nothing about cats, I guess you could say that I’m either impressed or go "Really? I didn’t know that". So typical of me. I didn’t know female cats become an adult in just over a year (probably that’s why the strays in my area grow up so fast and breed as fast too). I didn’t know cats could move their ears individually (never really did pay attention. Wait a minute. I thought most animals can do that? Is it?). I didn’t know a cat’s speed can be as fast as 40kmph (that explains the lightning speed and ghastly sounds when they sprint across the roof tiles). Maybe they should have included some cat idioms as well. Just kidding.
 
Though the drawing and art of this anime is typical and standard, something during comical points caught my attention. I don’t remember if I have seen this in other animes but the drawing of some of the scenes uses cell shading (thick black outlines) during those comical and funny moments. The mid-intermission shows randomly the characters of the series sometimes in random poses and outfits while spewing nonsensical lines. As for both the sponsor screens at the beginning and end, viewers are treated to different illustrations I believe supposedly from different people or authors. Some good, some funny and some of course for fanservice. But an eyebrow raiser for me for the end sponsor screen is the short song played in the background. I find it real funny that the heavy rock piece of the female vocal shouting "Neko, neko punch!". What the?! Surprisingly there are a few anime parodies if you pay close attention. For instance, Excel Saga’s Nabeshin’s cameo as a bus driver, the high jump scene similar to Suzuka, the Sohoku basketball team uniform of Slam Dunk and the mahjong players of Kiyosumi High in Saki.
 
Is this anime supposed to make you fall in love with the feline creatures? I sure did not. Don’t get me wrong that I hate them but I’d rather say that I do not have the maturity to take responsibility of a little creature like that (sounds more like an excuse). I’d be an awful master and things would’ve been better off if they were strays. Well, that depends on your stand on cats or other animals. If you ask me, my favourite pet has always been anime. I know that doesn’t qualify. Maybe I should start small via Tamagotchi. And in the extreme case if I do start hearing thoughts of cats, maybe it’s a sign that I’ve been watching too many animes lately.
 

Nyan Koi

Hidamari Sketch Hoshimittsu

August 20, 2010

The girls of Hidamari Apartment (HA) are back! Who would have thought that this slice of life anime would get a third season called Hidamari Sketch Hoshimittsu. Well, even if I needed a reason to watch this sequel, it was probably because of that childish, immature and irresponsible teacher of Yamabuki High School, Yoshinoya. Epic fail as a teacher but epic moe when it comes to bringing in the laughs. Yeah, did she ever learn or change? Bad news: She didn’t. Good news: She didn’t.
 
Fans and for those who have watched its previous 2 seasons of the series would find that the trademark visuals and much about everything else remains the same. For instance, the relationship and interaction between the girls-cum-art-students-cum-residents of HA, Yuno and Miyako along with their 1 year senior Sae and Hiro. Don’t forget the eccentric Landly and the little bug (or whatever that is) who is always bumming above HA, Ume. Of course, needless to say the antics that Yoshinoya do in school which will always result her in being reprimanded by the Principal. Other familiar stuff include the various scene changers in which shows the characters sometimes in different poses or outfits and the end of the day which mostly shows Yuno in the bathtub reflecting the day’s events (nothing ecchi or fanservice considered). But something new for this season I noticed is that, everyone in HA (except Hiro who is the sleepy head and even sleep talking!) wakes up and do their morning exercise and stretching. Even art class students need a little warm up to kick start their creativity.
 
So what else is new and in store for this season? Well, a year has passed and that means novelist and tomboyish Sae and good-housewife-material Hiro are now third year seniors at Yamabuki while naive Yuno and bottomless-stomach Miyako are in their second years. My, the year sure went by quickly. Also, there will be 2 new tenants at HA and will occupy both the empty rooms (if I can recall, one of them was that ‘secret’ room filled with exercising equipment that Hiro did in secret). They are the shy Nazuna and honest Nori. It’s going to get livelier at HA. You can count on that.
 
Episode 1 begins with Yuno breaking her plates one morning so her pals help her clean them up before rushing to school just in time. Hey, they just live across Yamabuki. Saves lots of time and energy. In class, the teacher hands back their grammar test papers and it seems Yuno failed! She scored 24 marks and the passing mark is 25 points! Just missed it! There goes her spring vacation as she has to do a retake. Her pals are willing to help her study but Miyako wants to give her amusement park spirits? She’s sure as weird as ever. Yoshinoya too offers to teach but with her ‘Engrish’? Don’t think so. With hard work, Yuno passes the retake with 100 marks! Wow! What a turn around. But it seems she studied too much so much so she’s gone crazy and saying words in English! Landlady comes by to inform the gang that there will be 2 new 1st year students moving into HA. She’s excited because that means more money and getting to splash the cash on her favourite liquour and snacks. And to quickly achieve that, she requests the girls to help clean the empty rooms since hiring professionals costs money. Well, many hands make light work. Landlady orders bento gor them as reward for helping her out. The girls learns she has installed network cables so internet is possible upon request. The girls wait eagerly on the day the new tenants are supposed to arrive. But it seems one of their parents showed up instead. The lively fateher decides to take the quartet out to lunch. That’s when Nazuna arrive and is disheartened to find nobody around. Soon shortly, Nori arrives but also finds no one around and though she knocked on Nazuna’s door, the latter’s sleeping inside. When the quartet return, they finally meet the new girls and quickly get acquainted.
 
The new semester always bring nostalgic memories for Principal with the old students going and new students coming in. He calls Yoshinoya for her words of wisdom so she says it is love and goes dramatically overboard of what it means to her. He should’ve known better. In episode 2, Nazuna and Nori are invited to Yuno’s room for a welcoming party. With Miyako’s dice, they talk on topics its face shows up. Hamburg steak? Nori talks about her hobby and interest in PC while Nazuna asks the reason the girls draw. Opening ceremony is held the next day as the senior quartet sleep in late. Nori rushes back to Yuno’s room to inform a big news. Seems Nazuna isn’t enrolled in the art class but a normal general-ed one. Nazuna explains she lived nearby and thought Yamabuki was nearby and took the narmal class exam and passed. After that, her dad was suddenly transferred for work and mom went with him to help with the housework. Nazuna starts crying over helplessness so Nori assures she has her good points too. Though they don’t know what they are yet. Heartbreak… Later, Yuno and Miyako decide to do up their hair so Hiro suggests going to Olive near the train station and searches for her never-ending card coupons so they can get discounts. At Olive, the duo get their hair treated by twins. Of course Miyako’s weird request and behaviour is always an eyebrow raiser. At the end of the day when they return, Hiro envies Miyako’s silky and matyre hair. Well, it looked the same to me as with Yuno’s. Sae thinks of getting her hair cut too so Miyako and Yuno jokingly say they’ll cut for her.
 
The opening ceremony for the new term starts in episode 3 as Principal gives his opening speech which turns into one filled with disappointment of a certain teacher not turning in on a crucial day and has no self awareness. He even said in this coming year, she’ll get hell! Woah! Clearly upset alright. I think I know who he’s referring too but that was dispeled when Yoshinoya’s hops onstage and eagerly introduces herself. Since she’s told it isn’t her turnm she strips her top! Starting the new semester with a bang? Yoshinoya is the homeroom teacher for Yuno and Miyako’s class once more. She tells them they need to choose from 3 electives: Plane (pointing to her hips?), 3D (boobs?) or Information (head?). Of course she got scolding from Principal afterwards. After school, Landlady drops by and meets the newbies for the first time. Yuno is still in a dilemma what to choose and seeks Sae and Hiro’s advice. They both chose Plane since the former knew what she wanted and the latter to polish what she’s already capable of. Still unsure, Yuno rearranges her furniture to take her mind off it. She finds a postcard and remembers nostalgic memories when she first moved in here. When Miyako pays a visit, Yuno decides to do Plane while Miyako says she’ll do 3D. Yuno is at the bookstore when she sees Sae who intends to buy a newly published magazine supposedly containing her latest works. They thought the stock hasn’t arrived yet but when they ask the cashier, he says the demand was so great that it was sold out like hot cakes. Seems that lesbian tsundere Sae fan, Natsume was one of them. Sae and Yuno chat things over a cup of coffee at the cafe as the latter reveals how she’s in a dilemma to choose between arts and humanitites. Sae mentions that being a novelist and drawing illustrations are both important and that she can’t let go both of them. Yuno goes back to tell this to Miyako so the latter says she has 2 plans: Don’t think and accept whatever comes her way! That doesn’t sound much of a plan, doesn’t it?
 
Yoshinoya enters Principal’s office early one morning in episode 4, sits on his chair and acts like him. Too bad she got busted. Scolding time. Natsume sees Sae walking back alone from school so she musters up her courage to go talk to her. Though just a short distance, Sae thanks her and this causes her to blush and run off. Nori asks Yuno and Miyako a place to get curtains to replace her current short ones so Nazuna suggests a home centre (think IKEA). The quartet are on their way as Nori tells them how she experienced her first time in Yoshinoya’s class. Trying to be a model and naked upon request? Got scolded after that lah… At the centre, they are awed by the many things and when Nori asks Nazuna’s opinion on the curtain designs, she says it’s better to ask Yuno and Miyako who are art students because she has no fashion sense. But Nori tells her off that it’s bad misconception and that not all art students are good in art, thus the reason they study art, right? Nazuna makes her choice so Nori chooses that design. They see Landlady at the nursery as she thinks of growing vegetables at HA. Miyako totally agrees because that will mean more side dishes for the food. Since all the girls agree, Landlady wishes them well to do all the planting. Lazy bum… What a great way of pushing responsibilities to others. They go back and fit Nori’s curtains so Miyako gets permission to take her old ones to replace her broken blinds. Broken since last summer. When Sae and Hiro get back from their shopping, Nazuna gets disheartened to see Hiro’s bundle of tissue rolls the same design as the curtains. The girls then plant tomatoes in the yard. Hiro cooks dinner for them all and the newbies get to taste her delicious cooking. Nazuna still hasn’t gotten use to living alone so Nori cheers her up and will accompany her for tomorrow at the school’s cafeteria.
 
Yuno tries to diet in episode 5 since today is the physical examination but Miyako is happily eating away. Hiro too is dieting for the whole day when Sae ‘saves’ her by giving her a sweet candy and she’s back to normal strength. As usual, Miyako and her antics during measurement time and for Yuno, nothing much changed. In fact, her height shortened by 0.1cm! Hope it’s an estimation error. When it’s over, everyone gathers and eat a deliciously baked cake from Hiro. During that, Yuno gets a wrong call apparently from someone she knew, Arisawa, a third year of Yamabuki, who was calling a friend out of haste. Yuno says she got her number when she accidentally left her handphone back in her classroom during winter so the rest chat about if they ever lost their handphones. The next part goes back a little in time. To a night when Yuno decides to show her pals about an interesting dog picture she took from her handphone. Realizing she lost her handphone, Sae makes a quick call and someone picked it up! Yuno answers and learns her handphone was left in the arts classroom. She goes to retrieve it and sees Arisawa sketching in the classroom alone. They get acquainted as Arisawa suggests Yuno to be her model and draw a pose of her. She asks her to strip! Just joking. Phew. Yuno learns she’s here at this time instead of the research institute (arts prep school) because she doesn’t like the tense atmosphere there. Arisawa tells her how she was overwhelmed by the amazing artwork she saw at the campus and knew she wanted to better herself at that place. As Yuno is astound by her words, Arisawa finishes her sketch and shows it to her. Yuno praises it very much till it made her blush. They both then part as Yuno return to her pals. She shows them the sketched picture of herself in her handphone. When the girls ask her about the dog, she doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Such short memory.
 
Yoshinoya has her class do outdoor sketching in episode 6 but Miyako and Yuno notice her very strange behaviour. Like she can’t stop looking at her handphone. During recess, they relate this to Sae and Hiro and being the novelist, Sae says Yoshinoya is in love but it’s a one-sided one. Why is Natsume so busybody eavesdropping? Yeah, she even got surprised for doing that. Principal seems very upset and is looking for Yoshinoya as Natsume tells him she saw her in the library. Meanwhile Yoshinoya is ‘hiding’ in the infirmary still obsessing at her handphone and asks Kuwahara about her opinion on love at first sight. Since the period is over, she kicks her out as she comes face to face with Mashiko. She suddenly blushes, panics and runs away. Yuno and Miyako are on their way back when they see Yoshinoya on the rooftop. Fearing the worst, they rush over. But it’s revealed she was just reading a phone novel and was so into it. The girls bid goodbye so she returns to her reading. Yuno tries to read it too after bath but just couldn’t comprehend. It’s definitely not for kids. Yuno, Miya, Sae and Hiro spot Nazuna helping out a guy classmate at school. They think she’s popular with the guys but Sae seems to get panicky at the thought. They decide to go ask Nori but she too isn’t sure though she notes she once saw 3 boys helping her out. Can’t wait to hear the juicy details, they all go see Nazuna and bombard her with questions like has she gotten a love letter before or shared ice cream with boys. She answers all of her first time during kindergarten. Sae looking more anxious that she’s an early bloomer? Nazuna denies she’s popular with the boys and dislikes helping them out though they help her from time to time. When she was in elementary and middle high, the other girls got mad when the boys help her out. She felt she didn’t want to turn down their offer and is grateful for their help. As they continue to watch her, the rest conclude that it may be Nazuna’s cuteness that prompted the guys to help her. Next day, Yoshinoya shows Kuwahara her new hot hairstyle: She copied Nazuna’s.
 
In episode 7, Yoshinoya must be regretting that she suggested doing morning exercises to Principal. Because now she’s got to do it with him every day! Boo hoo! In this episode, Sae’s little sister, Chika comes to visit the girls as she gets quickly acquainted with Nori and Nazuna. Over meal, they talk about Chika’s visit to the kabuki show, her first day in high school, her brass band, sports day rivalry between art class and general eds. I wonder how Yuno is going to divide a cake into 7 parts. Well, Miyako suugests to cut it into 8 parts and the remainder give it to her! Greedy! The gang decide to go for a picnic at the lake tomorrow since the weather forecast says it’ll be sunny. When they return, they have tea and snacks at Nori’s room. They talk about what they did at the park and then giving animal forms to the residents of HA based on their personalities. Like Hiro a swallow, Miyako a cat, Yuno a hamster and Sae a gecko! Of all creatures… The newbies talk about how striking Hiro and Sae are, like they’re so cool and elegant, making Sae blush. At the end of the day, Chika parts with them and they promise to chat more with each other in the future. Principal and Yoshinoya happen to jog by. Ironically the old guy is still full of energy ready to go on another mile while the young cosplay fanatic is so out of breath. Otakus out of shape…
 
Nori describes the delicious dishes of the Chinese Food Fair at the school’s cafeteria in episode 8. Especially the famed crab fried rice. Of course Miyako is all fired up to try them. But tomorrow is the last day! Yuno and Miyako plan to go during recess but since Yuno had unfinished work, they decide to go after school. When the moment comes, they are disheartened to learn it’s sold out since it’s the last day so not much food was cooked. They come home dejected but Hiro offers to make imitation of it for them. As expected, it tastes delicious. They learn Nazuna had already tried the dish earlier this afternoon but she didn’t tell them because she wanted to taste Hiro’s version. Hiro felt honoured and so happy that she’d cook any dish Nazuna would ask for. Erm… Why is Miyako suggesting on Nazuna’s behalf? Yoshinoya holds an internal contest in which the class will sketch motifs and need to hand them in by today and will be graded and reviewed by the end of the day. Seems the items chosen for the motifs are a bottle, can, eggplant, string and hat. Yuno panics pon hearing the pun words from the items: Bin, kan, nasu, ito and hatto which sounded like Binkan (Sensitive) Sweetheart! Must’ve know Yoshinoya long enought & go paranoid over her crazy character. Then she notices Yoshinoya watching her work and gets a little alert but in actual fact she’s observing her little butt! WTF?! Yuno must be having a hard day because her pencil tip broke several times and during recess, all set lunches have eggplants in them. At the end of the day, though Miyako’s work is one of the top, Yuno’s is one of the bottom. This causes her to be depressed. Yuno goes to talk to Hiro and at the same time Sae is stressed out on her novel job. This prompts Hiro to mention Saes’ job also puts her in Yuno’s situation all the time where she’s constantly being judged and having to come to terms with her ability. So how does she bear it all? Hiro’s answer: Probably because she loves it. That night, Yuno can’t sleep and starts sketching. Next morning, she’s sleepy in class but Miyako says it’s alright she can snooze because while she was sleeping, she drew eyeballs over her eyelids, freaking out Yoshinoya. Double eyes!
 
If you are familiar with the non-chronological order, then you should know that episode 9 goes back in time when Riri and Misato are third years staying at HA while Sae and Hiro the new freshmen. Riri and Misato discuss on where they want to go when they’re in college. Though they named several grand cities around the world, they note they can’t afford it and plan to just go to Okinawa after they graduate. Not that they can afford that too. One morning the gang wake up to find sesame seeds scattered over the corridor of HA as part of Misato’s visualization of time. Because of Sae’s work, she keeps dozing off in class lately. During recess, Hiro learns of Sae’s work and how she’s pressured to keep up after she got a rookie prize but the one after that got rejected. Back home, Hiro cooks for Sae and thinks of moving next door to her next year so she can check on her from time to time. They also talk about the erratic Misato and her art in which she got scolded from Landlady for ‘vandalising’ HA. Speaking of the devil, Misato must’ve smelled the good food and gatecrashes for a taste apart from teasing Hiro can be Sae’s good wife. Of course she also advices Sae to continue doing what she loves doing. Riri then comes by to pick up Misato to help work on her English. Back to the present, Yoshinoya and her class are at the park doing landscape drawing with light and shadow as the motif. While searching for a suitable spot, Yuno and Miyako see a couple of classmates throwing stones to a rock in the middle of a river resembling a weeping woman. They claim about a rumour if anyone manages to hit it, they will get better at drawing (since it looked like one of Picasso’s pieces!). Yuno tries but couldn’t hit it despite several times unlike Miyako who has long achieved that. She tried throwing a bigger rock but it breaks a chunk off it! Is she desperate?! Back in class, Yuno notices her hands shaking and panics because she thinks it’s the curse of the weeping woman! It’s because she threw the big rock lah. Back at HA, Nazuna helps massage her hand and this makes her feel better so Nori and Miyako want some too.
 
Yoshinoya locks the art prep room as a lesson for Mashiko not to enter without knocking in episode 10. WTF?! So he feints Principal is here as Yoshinoya goes into super panic mode and it’s left to our imagination what kind of avalanche helter-skelter that was in the room. He apologizes for lying. She’s not dead, is she? Yuno accidentally flushesher room’s spare key down the toilet. Landlady is happy to give her spare but it’ll take a few days since she needs to find it in her messy closet. Good luck to both of them. For the time being, Yuno stays with quirky Miyako and the next day borrows a clothes hanger to pick her room lock but it got stuck! The rest find out about her case and offer her to stay at their places so Yuno gets to experience first hand each of their quirkiness. Like Hiro putting on face fresheners and can’t really get up early in the morning, Nori who is always talking about computers, Nazuna who gladly helps with her maths and learning she too is an only child just like Yuno. As for Sae, Chika called them to ‘warn’ about Sae’s sleeping habits. As usual Sae stays up late to finish her manuscript. Next day in school, Yoshinoya overhears how Yuno hasn’t been home for 5 days and dramatically rushes over to tell her that sleeping all over and running away from home is not good. After some unrelated ranting (each being scolded and such), Yoshinoya runs away crying like a little girl. WTF?! What’s her problem? Is this her problem in the first place? After school, Landlady has finally found the keys (after rummaging and discovering lots of unwanted ‘lost’ items). Seems it is a box filled with hundreds of identical keys! Poor Yuno has got to try each one out to see which fits. I don’t know how long she took but thankfully she found the right one. But right after she opens the door to her sanctuary, a stinking stench of her miso soup left 5 days ago greeted her. She decides to stay with Miyako for the time being.
 
On a rainy off-day in episode 11, Yuno and Miyako watch a matchstick mystery quiz on TV and ecide to visit Nori’s room since the programme mentioned to obtain the answer on their website. Looking at their facial expressions, they must be expecting high hopes but were damn disappointed. Nori teaches Yuno the wonders of computer. Of course that klutz girl panics at every moment that doesn’t go well. They check out some of Yamabuki teacher’s online profile (don’t want to know Yoshinoya’s one), order pizza and also use CG to draw. Then Hiro and Sae come by also looking to borrow her PC for the mathstick mystery quiz. They too seemed very let down on the answer. Yuno notices a very big shoe at the shoe locker area and thinks it belongs to a new transfer student. But as Sae points out, they are the senior’s graduation projects for them to cool down before the exams. Since universities don’t take them into account and there’s no time limit or don’t have to be displayed anywhere in particular, they’re allowed to put them anywhere in Yamabuki. Yuno and Miyako observe the various arts peppered throughout Yamabuki so much so they can’t tell the difference between art and the real stuff like poster ads, fire extinguishers and even humans! While the gang are together during recess, it hit Yuno that Sae and Hiro are going to graduate next year. Her thoughts are interrupted when Miyako suggests to Sae to make big boobs! Yoshinoya gets another reprimanding from Principal about ‘corrupting’ the minds of the students but notes her creativity using sakura petals to creat a shirt. Yuno and Miyako continue observing more art when Yuno sees Arisawa who happily tells her she made it into college. They exchange emails before parting. That night, Yuno ponders how lonely it’ll be when her seniors graduate but feels she has to try her best since she’ll be a senior too. Graduation day arrives in spring as Yuno and Miyako note how beautiful the sakuras are and congrulates their graduation.
 
Hiro finally wakes up early in episode 12 to do exercise with the rest. The tomatoes they planted are ready for harvest so Miyako calls forth a Tomato Summit to decide its fate! What else is there? Eat lah! After making a few tomato dishes, since they have lots of leftover, Nori suggests making Insalata Caprese, an Italian salad. HA becomes Ristorante Hidamari for the day. Yuno, Nori and Nazuna go shop for other ingredients when they meet Yoshinoya on their way. Seems she’s got loads of school work to complete but gets motivated after seeing the girls do their best. But I guess she couldn’t take it anymore and breaks down in the staff room in front of the teachers and Principal. Like they’d understand her problem. She’s always weird, right? So that’s normal, right? When the trio come home, they divide the task like Nori-Nazuna team to make tomato desert and Sae-Miyako team to make tomato sauce. After creating and creatively decorating the various tomato dishes, they call Landlady over to have some. As usual the food tastes exceptionally good as Landlady takes this chance to know the newbies better. Landlady leaves after the meal and that’s when weary Yoshinoya just stepped out of the school, her work finally finished. Thank heavens. They give her a bottle of home made tomato sauce so this lifts her spirits and cheered her up. Before the girls part for the night, Nazuna wants to remember today’s menu not just by pictures. Nori suggests to use her computer and put pictures in the recipe too. Then everyone watch and admire the beautiful lone star in the sky. Yuno in her bathtub says how HA is a wonderful place because there’s good food, great conversation and being able to smile with her friends and can’t wait to look forward to tomorrow. Doesn’t that sound like a catchphrase for a restaurant?
 
Since I’m not a fan of the series, my feeling is more towards this: Nothing much. Of course I don’t expect any kind of grand ending from this kind of genre but if you talk about the character developments, there are only little of them. For instance the main quartet of HA. You can guess that they are the same girls as from the previous seasons right till the end. Though Yuno may have been learned a little but she’s still the same naive girl we all know. Just like the rest. Nori and Nazuna’s appearance didn’t have much of an impact so much so I felt that they were providing more support to the main quartet. Natsume’s role may be even minor than these girls but I was expecting some sort of tsundere showdown between her and Hiro or at least confront herself with Sae. That didn’t happen. Maybe just wishful thinking.
 
Of course my favourite character is still Yoshinoya. Just too bad she didn’t make enough appearances to bring me dropping down on the floor rolling in laughter. I don’t mean to sound like a sadist because I love to see her every time she gets scolded or reap what she sows. Don’t feel bad sensei. At least you’ve fulfilled your role in making viewers laugh. I hope she would have a spin-off sequel of her own. And speaking of her character development, I guess she’s the only character that I was hoping that wouldn’t change. And I got it alright. Would it be fun if she’s serious and mature? No doubt Principal would be relieved and spend his time doing useful things rather than hunting down and reprimanding that said teacher. I also noticed that the Ume bug didn’t make as frequent appearance as it did as compared for the last 2 seasons. I also thought Chika would have made more apperances instead of just 1 of the episodes. Maybe she’s got busy over her high school stuff and can’t frequent HA.
 
Thus besides the introduction of a handful of new characters, everything else remains the same. From the drawing and art of the series to the background music and even to the end credits and next episode preview. There may be some nice drawing and art in this series but the general visuals of the characters and the sceneries make them look more cute rather than having viewers to awe at. And yes, this season also has each episode focusing on the dishes that the girls eat, mainly those Hiro made. So is this an art themed show or a cooking class? Yum. The next episode preview works like a yonkoma (four panel comic) and I happen to notice that some (if not all) of the dialogue that is being said in it appears somewhere in the next episode. Even the art in the yonkoma. So it made me wonder, "Hey, I think I"ve seen this scene and heard those lines in the previous next episode preview before". And as always, the different illustrations from different people having their take and style of the characters of the series serves as the end card. If you have watched the previous seasons, you’ll notice some of the fun background music reused in this season. I’m not sure about if there are new ones but what’s wrong of reusing old ones if they sound good, right?
 
The voice casts are also maintained for this season and the new additions do provide suitable voiceovers for their characters. After having heard how Soul Eater’s Maka and Natsu No Arashi’s Jun sound so similar, it never occured to me that the newbie Chiaki Omigawa could sound so different while voicing Nazuna. She was just unrecognizable as the quiet and reserved girl as compared to tough or cross-dressing chics. Another newbie, Hitomi Harada voices Nori and her other recent anime roles include Himeji in Baka To Test To Shoukanjuu and Menoly in Bleach. The opening theme maintains its liveliness just as in the previous 2 seasons. The same seiyuu who voiced the main quartet of HA sing the opening them once more, this time entitled Dekiru Kanatte Hoshimittsu. But the ending theme this time feels like rock. Sung by Marble and called Sakura Sakura Saku ~Ano Hi Kimi Wo Matsu Sora To Onaji De~. I don’t know if the ending credits animation is considered to be a little depressing because apart from being shown in shades of grey, it’s like the gang gathering and staring around the sakura tree shedding lots of its petals. Or it could just be me.
 
What are the chances of a fourth season being produced? Well, Hiro and Sae have already graduated so it would be less fun without them around. Maybe it’ll be Yuno and Miyako’s turn to shine and lead Nori and Nazuna. They could show clips of other days during the same year since this series doesn’t go in chronological order or they could carry on with the current time frame and show Hiro and Sae carrying on with their lives (whether in college or working) and meet up with their HA pals during their free time. That is what I’m speculating after all. But one thing is for sure, they had a great time at HA. Will always be waiting at your service. Except Yoshinoya of course. She could’ve been a great comedian and clown if she didn’t become a teacher. I’m just saying… Sometimes there’s a thin line between creativity and being weird.
 

Hidamari Sketch

White Album

August 14, 2010

I admit that I am a fan of The Beatles but please do not mistake this blog as a tribute to their revolutionary White Album. Instead, the White Album that I am to blog about is the anime one. Based on the adult visual novel of the same name, I found out that it was released as a PC game way back in 1998! Wow. That’s more than 10 years since the adapted anime version hit the TV screens back in 2009.
 
Though it is adapted into a 26 episode series, it took nearly a year for the whole series to finish airing. I’m not sure about the logic of splitting the series into 2 halves. At midpoint, it took several months break before resuming and finishing it at the year’s end. I don’t know but perhaps it is more cost saving that way or perhaps a strategy to retain viewership. Either way, it’s either you’re going to totally love it or hate it. Aside the big names lending their voices to the series’ main protagonists, I find that this whole anime is one big romance drama. So if you’re not into it, you’ll find it hard to follow it especially for the first half of the series. I have to admit that at times I found it to be draggy and caught myself yawning. What was I expecting? Dragon slaying action? Who am I kidding. Sexy fanservice? This series has none whatsoever.
 
Initially this is my impression and expectation when I briefly skimmed through the synopsis. An inevitable battle going to be pitted against an up and coming idol star, Yuki Morikawa, and a veteran and popular songstress with a huge fan base of her own, Rina Ogata. And the thing that comes between them? Yuki’s boyfriend, Touya Fujii. Yup. I was smelling a big catfight among the ladies just for Touya’s attention but it didn’t turn out that way. Not even close. In fact both Yuki and Rina as you could say, best friends in the music industry. Why not? Since they’re both under the Ogata Production, headed by Rina’s elder brother, the mysterious Eiji. And so I guess the main problem here is that Touya guy who is not only torn between Yuki and Rina, but a bunch of other girls in the series too. Woah! A harem series, you say? Erm… I’m not sure if it fits that definition because it’s not a very obvious fact that the girls are fighting over him.
 
So episode 1 gets things started by introducing the main characters of the series and also the other supporting casts like Touya’s university buddies such as the gentle and caring senior, Misaki Sawakura, the athletic but melancholic-looking Haruka Kawashima, Touya’s best buddy and also colleague working part time at a cafe named Echoes, Akira Nanase, the dialogue-less cafe master of Echoes known as Franky who seems to be spending most of his time listening to music in a specially-made music room at Echoes while leaving Touya and Akira to do most of the job (hey, that’s what they’re paid for, right?), and Yuki’s manager Yayoi Shinozuka (she looks so ominous that you think she’s a witch with an ulterior motive!). Being a rising idol is tough because Yuki is whisked away by Yayoi as the lovebirds don’t have proper time to chat. Let alone enough time to spend together. I guess this is how cracks in the relationship start. But whether the crack is there or not, at least Touya and Yuki try to remain loyal to each other. Okay, so at least that is what Touya seems to be. Furthermore, there seems to be some phone restriction thingy whereby both sides are unable to pick up the phone and chat for more than 5 minutes. Must be some strict idol rules thingy, eh? Sometimes it’s just mind boggling to see Yuki waiting at the phone or when they call each other but got the phone message instead. Touya also seems to have a rocky relationship with his widower dad so the kid lives in an apartment on his own, though he may have a hard time trying to pay the rent, thus Akira helps him to find another part time job. Yuki too is having a tough time at the agency because a bunch of all-girl group Sakura-dan seems to love bullying her. Thankfully Rina is there to stand up for her. That night as Touya watches Yuki’s performance on TV, he gets a surprise call from her. Yup, that was pre-recorded. But the thing is, Rina was also there and upon finding out she was talking to her boyfriend, she requests Yuki to bring her to meet him.
 
You may have guessed in episode 2 that Haruka has some sort of a secret crush on Touya as the former requests the latter for a walk. He initially refused but soon agrees. Next day as Touya is working at Echoes, they are stunned to see Yuki and Rina coming in. I don’t know if that heavy scarf and sunglasses disguise is supposed to work but heck, it’s sure an eye-puller. Do idols have that much free time? Apparently they had some just before today’s work and speaking of that, Yayoi comes in to pick up Yuki and this leaves Touya and Rina alone. Rina may have taken an interest in Touya because she asks him to write down his phone number. And Touya gets another surprise for the day when Eiji comes out from somewhere inside Echoes to escort Rina out and back to work. That night, Touya gives Misaki a call since that girl was absent because she was sick and when he returns home, he hears his phone ringing and what do you know? It’s Rina on the other line.
 
In episode 3, their phone conversation is interrupted when Haruka rings the doorbell. Another walk? Nope. Something about re-registering for classes on Saturday. With that out of the way, Rina has a request of Touya. She wants him to be her manager. Gasp! And why would a university kid shoulder such a heavy burden? No, it isn’t the money. Rina somehow convinced that Yuki will be around. Ah, I see. Soon after, another phone call from Yuki about wanting to meet him on Saturday. Wow. His schedule is sure busy. Which should he choose? Of course his girlfriend’s one lah. Next day, Touya learns he has landed another part time job as a home tutor. On his way into Ogata Productions, he sees a chubby man, Hiiragi, rushing out and was soon told by Eiji he was Rina’s manager. Was. So I guess that’s where Touya the replacement comes in, eh? Yuki is surprised to see Touya. During a stage performance, Rina notices Touya waving to Yuki so she stops the performance just to slap him! But it’s all part Rina’s plan as she causes a fake tantrum so Touya and Yuki can spend time together. They chat about things like how they first met. Though Touya remembers it was during their high school years, Yuki remembers much further. While they were young in the woods. Yuki also wants to tell him a secret but that will be on Saturday. Unfortunately, they are discovered so Touya is fired as Rina’s manager. So fast? To make things worse, Yuki suddenly has work on Saturday so they can’t meet up. I guess Touya with nowhere left to go, decides to go to the kid he’s supposed to tutor, Mana Mizuki. Supposedly some demon kid as she has changed several tutors as long as she has home tutored. Because nobody answered the doorbell, Touya leaves and ends up at Echoes. Suddenly Rina comes in and heads into some secret doorway in Echoes (a broom closet?) to confront Eiji about Touya’s dismissal but the latter avoids and escapes.
 
Rina calls Touya in the wee hours of one morning in episode 4 just to tell him to meet up with Yuki at a different time. Probably he was still dreaming and went ahead and followed Rina’s orders. As expected he sees neither Rina nor Yuki there. Touya looks around the place and bumps into a little girl brat, thinking he’s a pervert. This tsundere girl somehow agreed to help him wait for his girlfriend until she learns his girlfriend is no other than the singer. Would she believe it? They search and search so I guess it’s time to part ways. Yuki too is searching for Touya and they barely miss each other on several occasions. They finally meet when it’s night fall. Wow. It took the whole day. Touya hugs her as Yuki reveals the secret: She is going to release her debut single soon. Yuki invites Touya to her apartment so he escorts her back. As they go up the stairs, they both share an intimate kiss before heading into her room.
 
Touya comes out of the shower in episode 5 but finds Yuki fast asleep. Since he isn’t a monster, he doesn’t take advantage of her and leaves. But he finds Yayoi waiting for him so she offers to take him on a long drive. She tells him how when she was first appointed as Rina’s manager many years ago, due to her carelessness, a picture of Rina buying cigarettes became a scandal (a setup by some corrupted production manager, I guess). To atone for that, Yayoi offers to be Yuki’s manager and she vows not to make that same mistake again. How far is she willing to protect Yuki? How about placing Touya’s hands on her breasts and even starts seducing him! Note this isn’t the fanservice anyhow. I’m not sure about her logic of wanting him to fall for her so that he could leave Yuki since she thinks Touya is obstructing Yuki’s advancement in her career. In short, she wants him to leave Yuki alone. She is even willing to do it with him if he ever wanted it. Yeah, sex as bribe, I’d say. Meanwhile Misaki is writing scripts for a play at her university’s festival. But the bunch of ungrateful guys want her to do the costumes as well. Seems guilt-ridden Misaki has done something bad and probably the reason why these jerks are treating her like dirt, especially that bespectacled bastard, Tamaru. Yuki hands Haruka a coded message so that she could pass to Touya for another meeting (something about wanting to sleep with him. Geez, that guy is so popular). Before Touya could go meet Yuki, distress Misaki calls him for help.
 
Sure, nice guy Touya decides to help Misaki with her drama club issues in episode 6. He learns something about Misaki turning down an offer to be the drama club head and now that Tamaru jerk is using her. Yayoi offers another car ride for Touya and at the end, she kisses him as a reward for staying away from Yuki! Yikes! He pushes her away and quickly gets out of the car. He sees Misaki waiting outside his doorstep so he lets her in. While she fell asleep, Touya goes through her sketch designs. Then he gets a call from Yuki. He hides the fact that Misaki is here and both sides start apologizing over the things that happened. Next night, Touya and Misaki go shop for materials (since her designs were approved by the bunch of jerks the same morning). The little girl brat spots the duo and follows them. Touya and Misaki are trying to find a place to sew their costumes but the design club at their university is working at full capacity and has no room for them, thus rejecting their request. Yuki too is having a hard time with her practice session but Eiji isn’t going to give up as Rina comes by to give her some encouragement.
 
Yuki manages to finish her recording in episode 7 and Touya suggests Misaki to temporarily stay at his dad’s place to use the sewing machine. Note the different treatment between his son and the girl. They burn the midnight oil but the next day, Touya rushes to his tutoring job. He sees the girl brat and thinks she is Mana’s sister but she reveals she is the only child and her single mom is always away busy working. Touya gives Mana a proficiency test and as usual that girl isn’t interested giving all sorts of excuse. Mana isn’t a dumb girl as she is quite intelligent, just that perhaps she lacks the motivation to do so. Their chat include about Touya’s girlfriend (since she mistaken Misaki as Yuki, Mana thinks he’s a flirt) and Mana’s spiteful comments on certain singers. That night as Touya and Misaki are dinning at Echoes, Rina comes in and misinterprets. Touya chases her to Eiji’s secret room to clear up the misunderstanding. Rina makes an excuse to rehire Touya so that she could watch over him and not worry Yuki but Eiji isn’t convinced. They head back to the studio, leaving Misaki behind. Meanwhile, Sakura-dan continues to bully Yuki as they even get physical on her! Yayoi wanted to give them a piece of her mind but Yuki doesn’t want her to create any commotion. Haruka is turning into a stalker because she’s ringing Touya’s doorbell so much so it annoys the neighbours. He’s not there, girl. He’s at Ogata Productions whereby he listens to Rina’s singing and is mesmerized by her different level.
 
After hearing her singing in episode 8, Touya and Rina chat about stuff like how Eiji quit being a singer because he was sick of it and that time it led him to give Rina her big break in the music industry but she too she is no longer his number 1 when Yuki appeared. Haruka eventually leaves Touya’s place but gets assaulted by several men. Thankfully Mana saves her and you can say it’s a start a beautiful friendship between the duo. Touya continues to help Misaki through the night and I guess Haruka got desperate enough to climb through Touya’s room window and sleep in his bed. A surprise that guy got when he returned home. Seems busy Touya has no time to pick up Yuki’s calls so Yuki calls his father’s place instead and finds Misaki taking up the call and thinks she is there taking care of his dad. Where is Touya? He’s out with Haruka figuring out what present to buy for Rina’s upcoming birthday. He’s such a busy guy. Meanwhile, Eiji is in a conversation with a rival studio production manager, Itsuki Kanzaki of M&M Music or better known as M3 Productions. Something about Eiji has lost out to some TV ratings so Kanzaki’s team will be taking some popular arena venue for their Christmas Eve performance. As Touya meets Rina to give her the gifts he bought, Yuki finally sees him (after all that miscalls). The duo talk as she finds out about the university’s festival. After Touya listens to their singing sessions, Yayoi brings him back and tries another passionate kissing-cum-seduction. Call it a guy’s thing to give in. Can’t give in to the sexual pleasures of the skin, eh? If you can’t resist them, join ’em.
 
The festival is just around the corner in episode 9 but Tamaru continues to be a jerk by rejecting Misaki’s hard work costumes. He’s trying to test her patience and throw his weight around, eh? So it’s back to the drawing board as Touya’s dad chip in to help. What about Touya? He’s trying his best to tutor Mana so much so he falls asleep on the job. Due to exhaustion lah. Misaki sends the finished costumes to university by herself. Yuki is at the festival and as usual, she and Touya missed each other. Even if Touya did realize Yuki was there, he decides to go watch the drama club rehearsal. The next day, Tamaru refuses to give Misaki and Touya the seats for the play. He is willing to, if they pay, that is. Probably Misaki doesn’t want Tamaru to have the last laugh as she guides Touya through the backstage maze. I don’t know how long they’ve been crawling through the dark and across the props just to get some view of the stage since it took them pretty long as the play have already well started. During the ‘journey’, Touya tries to talk to Misaki about Akira’s feelings for her but the latter slips and causes lots of metal rods to fall on her. He goes to help her but she refuses. As far as I understand, Misaki is trying to say that she has feelings for Touya. So what’s a guy got to do that he kissed her! He even claims he loves her! What about Yuki?! Is this guy trying to psychologically help her or what?! Of course Misaki denies everything, doesn’t return his feelings, bla bla bla. Misaki makes Touya leaves but the latter sends Akira to help and at that time he confesses his feelings to her as she is wheeled into the ambulance.
 
Well you could say Akira and Misaki are a couple in episode 10 as they spend a night together at the hospital before being discharged the next day. Tamaru is upset and blames Misaki for the humiliation and drama club’s poor performance. At the same time, Touya’s dad suffers from a heart attack. Eiji informs Rina about some number that she needs to win. 46,701? Is that money? Nope. Some concert seats. Rina isn’t too happy about it but she goes to encourage Yuki. Yayoi has been receiving harassing letters from Hiiragi so she accidentally rips up the one Yuki passed to her to deliver to Touya. And to Rina’s surprise, she sees the ripped letter in the waste bin. Yayoi continues to seduce Touya (probably that guy has no qualms giving in after one time too many) and she’s pretty smooth in ‘covering’ her accidental letter ripping incident with the answers she come up when asked.
 
In episode 11, Eiji along with the rest of the staff and managers including Rina and Yuki, meet up about some game plan that is set between him and Kanzaki. Since Rina has lost out to Sakura-dan over the TV ratings, not only the b*tchy 7 member all-girl group doesn’t respect her anymore, her performance venues for Christmas Eve is demoted to some tiny arena. From what I understand about this plan is that the victor goes to the one with the most concert seats sold. And since Yuki’s in the fray too, it will be a 3 way battle. So how can Rina’s tiny stadium capacity beat Sakura-dan’s larger one? Something about Rina has to perform at several places that night. So if you add them up, they win. Something like that. Argh. I still don’t get it. Rina confronts Yayoi about the ripped letter but she reveals nothing and that she’s just doing her job. Maybe this is bugging Rina so much that she couldn’t get her act right during rehearsal and needed several retries. Haruka and Mana continue their female bonding via cycling and Yayoi continues her usual with Touya. Are we going to expect this in every subsequent episode? It gets even ‘hotter’ because Touya breaks down because he can’t get speak to Yuki recently so she licks his ear! She must be happy her plan to keep them away is working and thus the ‘reward’. If Touya is so concerned about Yuki, what the heck is he still doing with Yayoi?! Ah, pleasures of the flesh… You bet he has given himself to Yayoi because when Rina asks him to go out with her, he turns her down because he already has plans with Yayoi, leaving poor Rina shocked. For goodness sake. You’re her manager, remember!
 
Apparently Rina is upset about that in episode 12 and tries to warn him. But that Touya flirt is undeterred and is even okay with the thought of having a 3 way relationship (WTF?!) and goes back to sleep with Yayoi! WTF???!!! Then later when Touya goes to see Rina in her changing room, she gives Touya a long lecture via Yuki’s letter. Did she memorize them? I mean, she mentions about Yuki blaming herself for failures in her relationship, concerts and her final wish for him to come to her concert before she stops bothering him. Rina fires him as her manager once more so I’m not sure if it was the letter or the firing that made Touya crying like a little girl and running out of the room (or both). Touya leaves Yuki a message that he will attend her concert but has a hard time getting tickets. Fortunately for that loser, he gets several of them including from his friends Akira and Misaki (they plan to go on a date and don’t need to attend the concert anyway), Haruka and even Mana herself (her mom is Kanzaki! What a small world after all). Then after getting beat up by Franky, I guess Touya has to ‘cure’ his injuries by having another make-out session with Yayoi. Ugh. On another note, Akira and Misaki are having their nice walk together when Tamaru confronts them. He stabs Misaki! OMG! Has he really lost his mind?! Thankfully the book that Touya lent her protected her from being seriously wounded and Akira isn’t happy because in some ways Touya was playing the hero. Count your lucky stars that you didn’t get stabbed.
 
Touya manages to arrive at Yuki’s concert in time in episode 13. Some quickie, eh? Just kidding. He bumps into a girl who seems to know him but she goes off shortly. So the performances between Rina, Yuki and Sakura-dan start and though Yuki performs exceptionally well, Sakura-dan is hit with a snag since a member didn’t show up. Every time Rina finishes her concert, she sprints and dashes to the next one. You really got to be fit to do this. After the concert ends, Touya gets to see Yuki and she gives him his Christmas present. Another Christmas gift is that their 5 minute phone ban is over so that can talk anytime and how long they want. Oh wait, this is got to be his best Christmas gift yet. Yuki confesses she loves him. So are you ready to ditch all other girls? Probably he took the first step towards that when after some chat with Eiji (Yuki being some Song Goddess and things like that), Yayoi tries another seductive advance but he rejects. Touya returns home to see Mana waiting out in the cold at his doorstep. You can tell she’s being tsundere, just happen to pass by here on her way to her friend’s place but she wasn’t in. Liar. Since Mana is coming down with fever, Yayoi takes her to the hospital. Then Haruka comes by and as a woman, what would you do if you have suspected that another woman is at a guy’s place? You leave. Touya chases after her to quell the misunderstanding that he’s turned into a lolicon but Akira in a panic runs over Haruka’s bicycle (that panic, eh?) and informs them that Touya’s dad has landed in hospital. Wait a minute. Now they find out he’s in pretty bad shape after he got heart attack several episodes back?
 
Touya’s dad seems fine in episode 14 but he is to undergo heart surgery soon. Yuki finds out about it and pays him a visit. As usual, Touya and Yuki barely missed each other. And as always, the usual bickering between father and son. Haruka takes Mana and leave from the same hospital. Meanwhile Eiji has won that whatever number seats game and he is to collect the grand prize as agreed by Kanzaki. A painting of a girl. He’s like so obsessed with it and a flashback reveals his obsession begun back when he was a crude musician in his younger days when he saw that painting at a museum in London (he was so moved that he shed tears and caused commotion that needed guards to restrain him!). And speaking of the missing Sakura-dan member, Menou Matsuyama, she has been found sleeping (after getting drunk and all) in some garbage-like apartment as Kanzaki gives her an earful. Not to mention physical abuse. She locks her in and has one of the managers on guard to make her repent her actions. Unfortunately you can’t keep that slippery girl in as she escapes with Natsuko for an ocean-view road trip. And about that part whereby I said Touya taking his first step ditching girls. I take that back. Because Yayoi turned down Yuki’s offer for a drink at Echoes just because she had an ‘appointment’ with someone else. That someone else turns out to be Touya and they’re using a vacant ward for their romp. He even thinks Yayoi can be Yuki’s replacement. Are we starting to hate this guy?
 
After that (satisfying) sex in episode 15, Touya has having a chat with Yuki atop the hospital. He comforts depressed and breaking down Yuki about her uncertainty. Touya visits his father as they chat about memories and loneliness. Eiji is talking to Franky about the painting. Something about sadness of losing something and that something is to be Eiji’s mom whom he never knew. He believes the girl in the painting is her. Then when Yuki comes in, Eiji wants her to share and drag him back to happiness. I hope it’s not what I’m thinking. Elsewhere, Haruka and Mana continue their bonding while Rina performs at various TV stations. Touya arranges for his dad to come home for New Year’s Day as he is being cared by Akira and Misaki. Couldn’t father and son spend New Year’s Day together and patch things up? I guess he rather spend it with Yuki whereby the duo share another intimate kiss. Probably they should’ve done it inside instead of the balcony because Yayoi spots them and even snaps a shot. Next day as Touya waits for Yayoi to pick him up outside Echoes, Eiji from inside spots and is thinking of greeting the kid but quickly hides behind a wall when he spots a shiny reflection from across the street.
 
Touya’s fling with Yayoi continues in episode 16 (are we getting tired of this?) as Yayoi reveals about the upcoming Venus Music Festival. The thing about this festival is that each production company can send only 1 of its singer to participate. That means, it’s either Yuki or Rina. What is Yayoi trying to imply? That Touya should accept that his love with Yuki is over. Touya gets word from Akira that his father’s condition has worsened so he rushes over. Misaki blames herself after learning that Touya’s dad condition is much worse than it seems. She apologizes to the old man but he tells her to get along with Akira and forget about Touya. Meanwhile Eiji and the rest are in a meeting over the Venus Music Festival. Rina knows Eiji’s mind has been made up on whom to represent Ogata Productions so she quits and plans on going on solo. Yuki is in a shock and goes after her but Rina just left and said sorry. Yuki tries to persuade Eiji to change his mind as she doesn’t mind not to be picked since it is Rina’s lifelong dream to perform there. Oh the dilemma but Eiji’s the boss, you know. Yayoi confronts Eiji to tell him that Hiiragi is the one behind all the harassment but he chooses not to notice and will take legal action as a last resort. Yayoi warns him that she will not forgive him if he hurts Yuki. As Yayoi drives Yuki back, she spots Rina’s car and tells Yayoi to stop. Out in the rain, Yuki tries to talk to Rina but she avoids.
 
Yuki must be desperate enough to tackle Rina down in episode 17. And maybe Yuki was so pitiful in tears that Rina had to calm her down as she takes her to a restaurant for a talk. She reveals her reasons for leaving Ogata Productions and that is to have Yuki stand on her own and be strong. A short flashback revealing Rina’s encouragement during Yuki’s recording session when she offered Yuki to be guest vocals in Rina’s album. Mana is at Echoes with Haruka and they both start crying upon realizing they have feelings for Touya. Sighs. It’s not like that guy have eyes for them anyway. Meanwhile Kanzaki calls Eiji to tell him that the original owner of the painting wants it back. But Eiji says it’s too late and that he isn’t going to give it up. To make up for it as an alternative, Eiji gives his entire studio to her but even so that isn’t enough. How much does that painting cost?! Kanzaki straightaway has Menou do her recordings and the odd part is that she needs that little girl partner of hers (who is never seen without her guitar), Natsuko, to write and compose her songs and lyrics. We see why Eiji can’t return the painting. That’s because he has written a big red ‘FAKE’ all over it. How does he know? He just ruined a multi-million dollar masterpiece. Touya’s dad is watching Yuki’s performance on TV and notes her crying but Touya says it’s tears of joy. Next day when Touya tutors Mana, the brat tries to hint that Haruka likes him but he brushes it off. Then the radio announcement announces that Rina is joining M3 Productions.
 
Rina has a press conference about her transfer in episode 18. Touya is pretty shocked to learn about this so he goes to chat with Yuki. When she goes to see Touya’s dad, Yayoi confronts Touya on why he is avoiding her (I hope she has no withdrawal symptoms since he hasn’t provide her with sex lately. Just kidding). He says he was busy taking care of his dad but as usual Yayoi is back to her seductive ways by giving that deep tongue kiss. If Yuki saw this… Forget her. Somebody seems to be taking pictures of them from afar. Apart from Rina’s packed press conference, Sakura-dan’s tearful press conference about breaking up isn’t drawing any much publicity or attention. Nobody seems to care about those fallen stars because the Q&A session passed by without a single question asked and one of them is going to make her solo album. Not interested. Yawn! Then Touya goes to pay Rina a visit in her dressing room. She wants him to get out but we all know she has feelings for him. She didn’t even resist when he hugged her. Since he triggered that, Rina wants him to kiss her. He obliged. My guess he’s going to ask her for sex after getting tired of Yayoi. Just joking. And I guess the part where she tries to stay neutral between Touya and Yuki just went down the drain, eh? Meanwhile Yayoi takes Yuki to dinner with Eiji and a couple of production manager guys. However Yuki ditches them halfway through dinner to go see Rina. When she arrives, she is shocked to see Touya leaving Rina’s room. Oh dear, poor Yuki.
 
So when Yuki confronts Rina about that in episode 19, Rina spills everything about her feelings for Touya right up to the moment they locked lips. Yuki breaks down and Rina doesn’t mind getting slapped by her. Yuki draws first blood. No, not by punching Rina. She bit her own wrist and bleeds! OMG! Is she the kinds of person who looks like she has very strong jaws? Well I suppose that they’re both rivals in terms of work and love life now. And what do you know? Rina soon hires Touya as her personal assistant. But Kanzaki isn’t impressed with Rina’s album (considering she came from her rival company) and tells it straight to her that Menou will be representing M3 Productions at the Venus Music Festival. Rina meets an ex-member of Sakura-dan who is going solo. She remains cocky and her manager is an ex-member of the same group. Rina is being instructed by Kanzaki to go help Menou with her songs at the recording studio. When Menou and Touya meet, Menou remembers him but it took a while for him to recall. She was that girl he bumped into during outside Yuki’s Christmas Eve concert. While Rina works hard on Menou’s songs, Menou being the irresponsible and unpredictable one shakes a leg. Make that two.
 
As Menou visits Touya’s apartment in episode 20, Eiji invites Yuki to see his collection of the same paintings in his secret room! Is he that obsessed with it? However Yuki points out that the paintings aren’t the same. Then suddenly his eyes opened and he saw all his paintings different. He breaks down and goes crazy. I guess Yayoi and Franky knew about it but chose to keep quiet. Remember the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes? Something like that. Yayoi lectures Eiji that it was his ‘fault’ to begin with since the actual fact he couldn’t remember the painting he first saw in London. Rina continues her 5 hour vocal practice sessions and after that, Touya meets his university’s student affairs lady who got him the tutor job, Yamamoto. Oh sh*t! He asks her out on a date and she accepts! I didn’t expect more women are going to be added to his list, not especially minor ones! Akira and Misaki spot him and the former wanted to beat him up to make him realize but Misaki stopped him. And I know Misaki is a nice girl but she even showed her forgiving side to Tamaru considering that idiot tried to stab her the last time. Is it a wonder why wouldn’t Akira make that jealous remark? Remember now that Touya’s status has dropped lower than a water flea because during his date with Yamamoto, the moment he sees Yayoi entering the door, he ditched Yamamoto just to go with her! WTF?! And this had a great scarring effect on poor Yamamoto because she will never date again! What have you done Touya?! Have you no shame?! And Yayoi is the one to say that she wants him to stop seeing other women. And in the end, Yuki and Touya didn’t get to hear each other phone messages because one is so darn tired from her practice and the other is so darn busy from his flirting.
 
Eiji sells some of his other paintings in episode 21 but that only covers part of the costs of the one he vandalized. Yayoi and Touya get into another sex romp this time in the toilet cubicle. Menou who is again on the run, spots Hiiragi snapping Yayoi and Touya. Then it’s like destiny when Tamaru stumble upon Hiiragi and wants the fatty to work for him to bring down you-know-who. But I’m not sure about the later scene whereby Tamaru’s dad is scolding him for the trouble and shame he has brought to the family and something about ‘that woman’ is extorting them money and that mean Tamaru is like a cry-baby. As Yuki goes to visit Touya’s dad in her kimono, Kanzaki goes home to finally learn that Touya is her daughter’s tutor. And when Mana learns that loser Touya is dating Yuki (probably coming from her mom’s mouth made it more believable), she starts throwing tantrum and trashing her place before running away. Kids these days have serious problem. So serious that even strict Kanzaki gets worried and calls Touya that Mana has not come home. Touya has an idea where she is. He takes a taxi to Haruka’s cabin out of town and is surprised to see Haruka playing tennis.
 
Tamaru tries to blackmail Misaki into writing an article after showing her photos of Yayoi and Touya’s secret fling in episode 22. Misaki is reluctant and thankfully Menou is there. Seems Tamaru is ‘afraid’ of her and backs down. It doesn’t help with Hiiragi’s bumbling move by selling the photo negatives to Yayoi. Menou offers Tamaru something else. It’s like she’s plotting her own sex scandal to save Touya and wants Misaki to write it and have Tamaru to leave them alone. At Touya’s end, Mana straightaway leaves in his taxi when he arrives. So Touya spends the night with Haruka. If it’s not Yayoi, then it’s some other girl. Yup, Haruka gets all naked and wants to do it with Touya but he refuses. Later she apologizes but they end up sleeping together. Oh, I forgot to mention he kissed her before that. Is he trying to achieve a record of kissing every main girl in this series? But not sure whether they did it or not because early next morning, Touya left on her bicycle. Mana is seen visiting Touya’s dad but I can guess his time is up because he sees Mana and hallucinating her as a young Yuki, telling her to praise crying Touya but she just ran away.
 
While Yuki continues to prepare hard for the Venus Music Festival in episode 23, Touya and Misaki have a chat whereby the latter reveals she is going to break up with Akira all because she still has feelings for Touya. What is it about this five-timing guy that makes him so special? Okay, I’ve seen this coming. She kisses him. All that’s left is Mana. Oh yeah, go for it pal. You’re almost completing the list already. But bad news soon arrives because Touya’s dad passes away so he has to make final arrangements. Akira punches Touya jerk when he finds how he and Misaki are going to clean up daddy’s house together. I don’t know if that guy has learnt any lesson on restrain because it is common sense that when a family member passes away, you don’t go ask a girl to "love me one last time". WTF?! Doing it in the empty house?! On other developments, Mana passes her exams (she’s a genius if you remember) and celebrates with Touya on a ‘date’. Just short of a kiss, he embraces her in public, embarrassing her. Also, Rina and Kanzaki have a long chat about things. This includes Rina revealing how Franky or his other name as Rina knows him by, Nagase (related to Akira?), is like a father to her and Eiji since having taken care of them since young and the funds fraud was something made up because she knows Eiji used his hard earned money to build his secret hideout though it was the contractor that got involved in the fraud. Kanzaki also reveals that M&M stands for Matsuyama and Mizuki. This means Menou is her eldest daughter. When Kanzaki got a divorce, her ex-husband got custody of Menou and she got Mana. Till this day, Menou doesn’t know Kanzaki is her real mom. Another shocking revelation is that Yuki is a distant cousin of theirs. No wonder music is flowing in their blood. It’s all in their genes. Besides, Kanzaki did say that Mana used to mistaken Yuki as her sister when the real fact it’s actually Menou. Akira parts with Haruka on their cycling date but gets into a car accident. Seems Touya got message of that at his place. Guess who’s there? Not Yayoi. It’s Menou. New place to hang out? New girl to play with?
 
Episode 24 begins with Menou’s scandal surfacing everywhere. She reveals she doesn’t write her songs or sings them but her loli assistant. Plus, Eiji is in deep sh*t because he is being accused for tax evasion and funds embezzlement. Therefore it’s no surprise he goes into hiding when the police raid his secret hideout at Echoes, he’s not there but Franky. For the first time, he spoke! Sounds horrible his falsetto. I guess it’s better if he didn’t open his mouth. The long chat between Rina and Kanzaki continues (like they’re so close pals now? I mean, Kanzaki did says she never mentioned all this to anyone and Rina being the first). Rina explains the cigarette scandal years ago was setup by Eiji as a lesson for her to handle scandals whenever needed to. Yuki goes to comfort Eiji and I guess they lost it within themselves that they kissed! Gosh! I would’ve expected it from Touya but Eiji? Yuki soon realized and pushes herself away and runs out. Eiji thinks of giving himself up. With Menou out of the Venus Music Festival, Rina offers to sing in her place and has practiced singing her song many times. Tamaru isn’t happy that his grand plans has gone up in smoke and sends Hiiragi to infiltrate M3 Productions to obtain anything just to bring them down. Hiiragi gets in impersonating as a security officer and shortly after, we see Rina coughing incessantly after drinking a poisoned tea. Yuki flees to Touya’s place to seek comfort but sees Menou there. Ahahaha…
 
But nothing serious happened since Yayoi came to pick Yuki up in episode 25 and Menou tells her there is 1 thing she can do and that she’ll help out too. Rina is hospitalized and it has affected her vocal chords though not life threatening. Now she can’t talk let alone sing. Yuki gets emotional and apologetic each time as Rina communicates with a sketchbook. Word has it that Eiji is in police custody as Touya confronts Yayoi. She reveals why she tried to make Touya fall in love with her because those who did will eventually disappear. But she no longer considers him a threat to Yuki. Touya says he has never loved her (probably that’s why he never disappeared) so she replies he has never loved anyone and hates him from the start. I’m not sure if he’s doing any psychological move because he hugs her and says how relieved he is. Some love-hate relationship that was. Kanzaki slips into the hospital (what do you expect when hundreds of hungry reporters are waiting at the outside) to apologize for everything to Rina. Touya is chatting with Menou at his place as she reveals that she did meet him when he was a child. Soon after he helped and comforted him, she left and gradually forgot all about him due to her own internal problems and stuff until that chance meeting on Christmas Eve. Menou gets all over Touya. Till Kanzaki comes in, she tries to flee via the window but under mommy’s orders, Touya restrains her. The news report shows a former manager to be the culprit behind Rina’s poisoning case and has been arrested. Hiiragi even had a hand in arresting him. While Natsuko wanders in the streets, the Venus Music Festival begins and it’s Yuki’s turn. Rina is still in hospital and Touya decides to be by her side.
 
It’s Yuki’s turn to play in episode 26. But she’s just sitting there silently. Touya realizes how he’s been hurting Yuki all the whole and that he shouldn’t love anyone. Yeah, it took him 26 episodes to realize that. Rina tries hard to reach him that it’s not his fault when suddenly her voice comes back, "… is because all of us love you!". Back to Yuki, the broadcasting crew thinks of pulling her out but she starts playing. It’s like she’s screwing around with the broadcasting schedule because she’s playing a different song. A piano solo that lasts don’t know how long! They’re going to pull her out for sure but Yuki starts singing. Shortly, she is joined by Rina as they both do a duet. Woah! How did Rina arrive so fast? Maybe you can thank Touya for that. Even if it wasn’t as planned, the crowd loved it and wanted an encore but in the end, they’re disqualified. As Kanzaki goes to the police station, Eiji gets released and Natsuko gets her confidence to play street music to the crowd, it seems Touya has gotten his memories when he first met Yuki. The time at the woods a few months before she moved. That time, Haruka was being bullied and Yuki tried to help but Touya only stood there crying like a wuss. After that, Yuki gave him a medal praising him but he threw it away. His dad scolded him so he went all out to search for it but to no avail. Due to that ‘tragic’ incident, his memories were sealed and a few days later he met Menou. In present time, Touya chats with Akira and Mana about Yuki. Something about how Yuki was waiting 10 years patiently for his reply whether to thank or apologize her for it. Touya leaves when Menou comes in to chat with her sister. Touya goes to Haruka and it seems she was the one who kept the medal. Why didn’t she say a word? Because he didn’t ask. Simple as that. Plus, she was also waiting for Touya too. Few months later, Touya bids farewell to Mana who is moving home with Menou and Kanzaki (she looks so plain without the heavy make-up and fancy dress and accessories). Rina and Yuki duet album hit the stores via another production company, Daddy Long Legs.
 
Honestly, I don’t feel satisfied about the ending. So Touya realized and remembered his past but in the end is he and Yuki still seeing each other? It just made me a little more confused. I think from my point of view, this whole series is about Touya and not Yuki or Rina. The rest of the supporting characters are just secondary. If you noticed that throughout the series, you can see kanji words popping up on the screen from time to time. These are actual Touya’s thoughts and inner heart and they sometime may contradict what he says. When Touya starts flirting around with other women, it brought back horrifying memories of that sex-crazed jerk back in School Days, Makoto. Yup, I even predicted Yuki would turn yandere and cut his head off! Good thing that didn’t happen.
 
So I guess the problem with Touya is his saviour goddess thingy. As long as one of the ladies provides things his way, he calls them their goddess for today. But as revealed this goddess thing was conjured by Menou when she first met young Touya and that Yuki was the only true goddess for Touya though took her kindness for granted for a pretty long time. Yup, you could say the other girls other than Yuki were just substitutes for his goddess. And in the end of this near-harem series if I must call it, it isn’t clear cut who he ends up with, though my guess he’s still with Yuki. No signs that she dumped him. I also figured the producers wanted to leave an open ending for viewers as we’re not shown who Touya was going to meet in the final scene. So did Akira and Misaki break up for good? But Misaki couldn’t be Touya’s girl because she ‘loved’ him for ‘one last time’, right? Not Haruka because she admits he can only be her big brother. Mana? She moved away. Touya’s not a lolicon. Menou? She’s too enigmatic too comprehend. Yayoi? She hated him. It was never love in the first place. Rina? I guess when she wrote thank you and goodbye on her mirror, I guess that means it’s over with him, right? Probably ended his job as her manager too. Yamamoto? Err… Who? Too bad she won’t be dating again. So yeah, maybe he’s still got Yuki. Maybe. I don’t mean to be mean or rude but sometimes the way Yuki gives her little smiles makes her look a little dense. But even so, she still looks sweet and nice :). In extreme cases, maybe Touya would end up with Akira! Definitely just kidding on that.
 
I wonder what happened to Franky. That speechless guy (except just that 1 time) seems pretty cool because he does his ‘talking’ via his actions. Maybe he remodelled Eiji’s secret room back to his normal music room. Eiji himself is somebody who is hard to understand. Sure, he and Kanzaki may have gotten into shady dealings but I felt his obsession for that single painting was just a side distraction for the overall series like Eiji-Rina and Misaki-Tamaru’s past. I know that Tamaru guy is somebody others would love to hate (besides Touya if you will) but thankfully his plans for revenge didn’t materialize in the end. Yayoi is a creepy character. She was willing to do extreme seductive stuff just to protect her ultimate goal but did she succeed? Some may call her a slut but it’s partly Touya’s fault for giving in. Don’t you think she really look like a modern day witch?
 
One thing if you noticed the problem between Touya and Yuki is the inability for a form to communicate with each other. You’d thought how easy everything would be if everyone just had a handphone and wahlah, problem solved. However, keep in mind that this series is set in the year 1986! Wow! It feels like ages ago. Handphones weren’t even heard of or thinkable at that time. Yeah, note how they have to use the good old traditional receiver or public phones. What? Don’t know how those bulky machines look like? Haha. Stop playing with your palm-size handphone and go out and look for one. Maybe I’ve seen too many animes revolving around modern times or even futuristic ones (fantasy medieval is a different matter) and coupled in with my take-for-granted modern facilities convenience, the series never felt like it was set in the mid 80’s. At least it never occurred to me that way.
 
The drawing and art are of today’s Japanese anime standards but sometimes there are scenes in which the art gets sketchy like as though it is drawn with crayons or oil-based materials just like all those paintings. Even in the next episode preview, opening and ending credits animation. Because of that, the animation feels a little jerky but I supposed that is done on purpose. On a trivial note, each of the episode titles (termed as Page) feels like lines from a poem. Some melancholic, some romantic, some about life, some in question form and some like similes. I’m not sure if they are taken from the poet Robert Browning since it was the book that Misaki lent Touya at the very beginning of the series. It was interesting to see the narrated words of the title appear on the screen during the next episode preview in the first half of the series. A little creative, I’d say.
 
Probably one of the ‘main attractions’ to watch this series is the seiyuu line-up. We have big names like Aya Hirano voicing Yuki (Haruhi in Suzumiya Haruhi No Yuutsu) while Nana Mizuki doing Rina (Fate in Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha series). It feels like some sort of replication in the real world because Aya Hirano is a rising star while Nana Mizuki herself is a veteran in this industry with her own base and such. Sort of like a ‘face-off’ between to seiyuu greats, eh? But even so, right till the end, I find both girls to be as friendly as before and no serious damage in their relationship. Maybe the producers don’t want to earn the wrath of fans from both camps so they compromise the ending with a duo collaboration. A win-win situation. I may not follow closely so I’m not sure if this show made them venture further into the music industry and expand their singing careers. Just like how it did for Macross Frontier seiyuus May’N and Megumi Nakajima. Rina may sound confident as the old hand but she too has her own weakness and while Yuki may sound fragile and vulnerable at times, it is her inner strength that remains her as steadfast. Other casts include Tomoaki Maeno as Touya (Saku in Sora No Manimani), Haruka Tomatsu as Mana (Lala in To Love-Ru), Megumi Takamoto as Misaki (Winry in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood), Romi Paku as Yayoi (Nana O in NANA), Nozomi Masu as Haruka (Hiiragi in Lucky Star), Sho Hayami as Eiji (Tenzen in Basilisk), Rumi Shishido as Menou (Yumi in Hataraki Man) and Daisuke Sakaguchi as Akira (Shinpachi in Gintama).
 
Both the opening themes are sung by Nana Mizuki. The first one being Shinai and the second one called Mugen. I don’t know, I don’t really find the pop rock pieces appealing. How should I put it, let’s just say I find it a little odd for Nana Mizuki playing with her vocals while singing the pieces. Well, she does have powerful vocals. Logically from my experience if Nana Mizuki does the openings, then Aya Hirano has to do the endings, right? Nope. Not a single one. Sidelined? Both ending themes are sung by Suara. The first half a slow ballad entitled Maiochiru Yuki No You Ni and the second half is Akai Ito which plays to a faster rock beat. For the first half of the series, the sketchy ending credits change after a few episodes before settling to a fixed one in the second half. Some of the insert songs in the series aren’t so bad themselves. Well, at least Aya Hirano has her fair share singing. Not to say that it made me go crazy and need to get that song this instant but rather enjoyable.
 
Having a girlfriend as a top idol is definitely tough seeing that your private life becomes a public one. Everybody wants to know what you do. Scandals, gossips and rumours are stuff all too familiar in the entertainment world but as in any showbiz, the show must go on for better or worse. For me, I’d prefer to stay out of the limelight. I’m still having stage fright after all these years. And given a choice to have to hottest, prettiest and sexiest idol as my gal, I’d rather lock myself in my room watching animes, fantasizing over 2D girls and play such simulation games. Maybe it’s time I take out and listen to The Beatles’ double album release again.
 

White Album

As usual one of my mindless surfing on the internet has me to chance something which will never cross my mind in a million years. That’s right. I have never given much thought that Sketchbook ~Full Color’s~ had extra specials in the form of Picture Dramas. As extra ‘motivation’ for fans and viewers to buy the DVD, you need something extra to make their dollars worth, right? Those who aren’t familiar with what Picture Dramas are, they are actually still pictures (unlike animated ones you see in the TV series) with dialogues and music background. About what? Whatever. Depends on the series. And since Sketchbook is one of those art class, slice of life comedy theme, I guess I know what to expect a little as each Picture Drama lasts around 7-8 minutes. Plus, this is my first time that my blog is dedicated to Picture Dramas.
 
Picture Drama 1
Sora, Natsumi, Hazuki, Nagisa and Kuga are taking a train trip to Kanegawa for their beach trip. Seems they are running late because Kuga spent too much time buying souvenirs. It doesn’t help when Sora’s shoelaces are weirdly tied. I don’t want to know how they ended up that way but thankfully they made it. In the train, Sora tries to sketch in her sketchbook a large castle but it has long pass (I remember she has a penchant for wanting to sketch moving objects). The girls talk about the inn that they’re going to live in and their plan to play on the sunny beach. Then the train passes the ocean so Sora decides to sketch it but it is soon blocked by the mountain. I don’t know how ‘thin’ the mountain is that’s because the ocean full is visible again. The gang are overwhelmed and in awe of the magnificent sight of the vast ocean filled with glittering light reflected on its surface beneath the clear blue sky. So much so Sora forgot to sketch once more and by the time she realizes it, the mountain hides it again. As the announcer announces their arrival at Kanegawa, the girls start panicking as they haven’t pack up yet. In yet another haste to get off but Sora’s shoelaces are untied… "Fix it once we leave the train!".
 
Picture Drama 2
Unfortunately this time, the girls missed the bus. All because Natsumi was in the toilet too long and Kuga taking her time sampling steamed buns. Now they’ll have to wait 2 hours for the next one. Sora notices the ocean nearby so the girls decide to kill some time enjoying themselves there. However to their disappointment it is barren. No stalls, no nothing. Just an old guy picking up probably garbage. Since they’re here, might as well change into their swimsuits and have fun. While changing, Natsumi notices she forgot to bring her swimsuit. Luckily Kuga had brought a spare. A school swimsuit. Well, better than nothing. Why did she bring a spare? Something about she wasn’t sure on which one to wear since one was from her first year and the other the current year and also in a dilemma about the style of her name written on the swimsuits. Remember, Kuga herself is weird. As they play in the water, Sora decides to go fetch her sketchbook but they see a couple of crabs resting on it. Thinking how cute they are and not wanting to bother them, she just watches them. The sun is setting and the girls return to catch the bus, only to miss it again. That’s another 2 hours to wait… Sora decides to sketch their depression in replacement so the rest decide to do the crab walk for her. Well, Sora also got into it and couldn’t do her sketch.
 
Picture Drama 3
Natsumi has bad news for everyone. Since they’re late, DINNER IS ALREADY OVER!!! The next bus is in 2 hours time and the inn’s cook has gone home. Well, partly it’s her fault for leading everyone to a so called short cut but got lost and also trying to hitch-hike when there are no cars passing by. What to do? Luckily they are allowed to use the kitchen and ingredients to make their own dinner. First up, they need to cut the fish. Erm… do they have to kill that live fish? Somebody’s got to do it. Hazuki has been given that ‘honour’ but she and the rest starts panicking. Animal lover Nagisa says that they’ve got to think about the fish’s feelings. She suddenly strikes the fish and explains since they’re going to eat the fish anyway, might as well get over it fast and make it less painful. Uhn… If you put it that way… Natsumi watches the rest cook but gets dejected when she realizes she is the only one who can’t cook. Even Sora can make soup stock. So she decides to put all her effort in making rice and with all her passion and effort poured into washing, mixing and cooking the perfect rice, in the end Hazuki pointed out she forgot to plug it in and switch the rice cooker on. Duh… Everyone finishes cooking and seems it can be considered 5-star hotel level. As everyone starts digging in, Sora decides to sketch the sumptuous meal but to her dismay the food is gobbled down so fast since everyone was hungry. When they realized Sora’s intentions, they apologize and recreate the dishes in their artistic way. Fish bones looking artistic?
 
Picture Drama 4
Did the TV series have any fanservice? Well this hotspring episode may just what we’re waiting for. Just kidding. Nothing scandalous or eye-popping. As the girls soak in the hotspring, the chat about its benefits and Nagisa swimming in it since it’s so wide. I suppose Natsumi has got some superiority complex in the boobs department as she decides to discreetly and indirectly check out the size of her pals’ boobs. Seems she’s on a winning streak and all that’s left is Kuga’s. However Kuga is pretty ‘defensive’ as attempts like offering to wash her back didn’t allow Natsumi a single chance. That’s when she decided to go back into the hotspring and wait for the perfect chance as she stares at Kuga. Stare and stare and stare and stare and splash! She collapsed due to too much heat. When she comes to, she’s in the dressing room with her pals around her. She notices herself being wrapped in Kuga’s towel since as she mentioned it was cooler for her body. When everyone leaves, Natsumi asks Sora if she had seen Kuga take off her towel. Natsumi tries to subtly hint if she has seen Kuga’s boobs but Sora is too dense to understand what she’s saying. What are the things that girls are interested the most? Cat paws! No lah! So Natsumi tells it straight to her the ‘B’ word so after thinking real hard, finally Sora replies "Kuga-senpai’s breasts… She got 2 of them". HAHAHA!!! How disappointing. But that’s Sora for you as she wonders if she should’ve sketched them since Natsumi wanted to know so much about her breasts.
 
Picture Drama 5
The girls are tugging in for the night but Natsumi isn’t happy since the night is still young. Well, the rest think pillow fights are childish and that they’re not into ghost stories. So Natsumi suggests a love confession stories and has Nagisa start off with her ideal guy. After all that exciting description of someone like summer and the likes, it dawned to them it’s some bug. Hehe. She’s a bug lover, remember. Next, Natsumi wants Hazuki to confess and after mentioning she doesn’t want those in dramas, prefers him calm, planning, warm and fuzzy, the rest start guessing she may be referring to Mike (the cat in the series) and if not the arts club. Natsumi is getting frustrated that this isn’t a love confession story so they ask about her love story instead. Natsumi starts getting fidgety, uneasy and loss for words. In a desperate move, she did a futon dive and suggests everyone going back to sleep since they’re righteous high school girls and love stories are still too early for them. Plus, they need their beauty sleep to wake up early tomorrow. Wow. She sure came up with lots of excuses.
 
Picture Drama 6
Sora couldn’t sleep or rather she woke up too early than the rest so she decides to take a walk at the shore. This is where Sora’s observation power comes ins like noticing the dark blue sky becoming one with the sea, the distant factory and the lined up tetrapods that somehow gave her a nostalgic feeling. She spots a cat that closely resembles Mika and decides to call it Umike, a word combination of Mike and Umi (sea). The cat leaves as Sora notices the sky now turning orange and that’s when Nagisa and Kuga turn up to watch the sunrise with her. This is followed by Hazuki and noisy Natsumi (disrupting the peace and quiet of the beach. Can’t she read the ‘please be quiet’ sign?). By that time the sun has stick its head over the horizon as Sora takes out her sketchbook to sketch the scene. Nagisa wishes the rest of their art club members could be here to watch the sunrise so Kuga says not to worry because Sora is sketching it for them. Sora remembers this nostalgic feeling. It was different feeling when they first departed because she’s not alone and together with everyone else. And this unknown seashore from this moment onwards, it becomes a seashore that they’re acquainted with. Sora’s sketchbook finally has the sunrise scene as she also sketches Umike into it. And Natsumi continues to be noisy…
 
Moving sketches…
Well, the entire Picture Drama series isn’t just still pictures as I expected as there are some animation but in the form of cardboard cut-outs on a stick like those you see in small puppet theatres. Of course personally I feel the Picture Dramas aren’t anything much but at least they bring back nostalgic feeling when I was watching the series several years ago. Yeah, the wacky characters of the art club and those soothing background music. Oh yeah. Such nostalgia.
 
I remember Natsumi being the lively and boisterous one of the pack but I don’t remember her being a little idiotic. I mean it’s like in this whole Picture Drama series, her energetic-ness serves more like comic relief. But I shouldn’t be complaining because without her, the whole series would have been boring and plain. Sora is still the same plain weird girl but that is to be expected and thus was more amusing than funny. Kuga too is another weirdo and is just like Sora herself. Hey, what happened to the pair of Drama Queens from the TV series? I really love and miss their nonsensical dramatic ranting. Too bad I don’t see them making a single appearance here. It could’ve been funnier. Maybe this is for Natsumi to hog a little limelight. After all, the Picture Dramas do lack a lot of many other characters from the TV series like the other art club members, their teacher and those cats.
 
Though the artwork of the Picture Dramas remains consistent with the TV series, it’s not anything special or to shout about either because as far as I know, Picture Dramas usually have higher quality and detail put into the art. And being an art themed anime, I thought it was a little ironic. But even so if they really do touch up the artwork, it may look a lot different than its usual and fans would have a hard time to identify with it and most probably wouldn’t like it either. As I’ve said the Picture Dramas serves as good nostalgia and fun with the few main characters. Too bad ever since watching this series and a few other art themed ones, I still haven’t got any artistic urge to pick up the brush and draw. Maybe I’d prefer to just watch other people’s work. That’s easier :).
 

Sketchbook ~Full Color's~

Time flies when you are having fun, literally. And so, the second season of Natsu No Arashi dubbed Natsu No Arashi! Akinai-chuu (meaning, open for business) came and go as fast as it did at the end of 2009. It was no surprise that I was looking forward to the sequel of this time paradox comedy-cum-romance-cum-drama series. No matter how complicated the explanations about time travelling and paradoxes were to me (I’m no rocket scientist, you know), in a way this series was quite fun the way they portray the storyline with the mix of zany characters.
 
A short recap on what this series is about. Set during the hot summer in Japan through the eyes of 13 year old boy named Hajime, he fell in love at first sight with a beautiful female spirit fondly known as Arashi, supposedly to have died during the second World War but even she is unsure how this came to be. The pair are able to time travel at the mere touch of each other. As they both also work part time in the cafe called Hakobune, their summer adventure is made more ‘exciting’ with the odd bunch of characters like the money-minded cafe master Sayaka, a girl Hajime’s age who cross-dresses as a boy Jun, a tough muscular private investigator and usual patron of Hakobune Hideo (in my previous blog I called him Shades but since he has a name now, I feel this is more appropriate) and a bunch of other spirits like Arashi such as Kaya, Yayoi and Kanako.
 
Fans who have watched the first season will be pleased to find out that the sequel maintains its various visual trademarks. So for those who have not watched the prequel, it is advised that you do so. Not to say that this sequel relies heavily on what has happened, just that it is for us to better understand and enjoy the events that have taken place here. So in episode 1, the usual gang are talking of what summer is all about. With various opinions, they finally think it is a visit to the beach. Yup, starting the sequel with a fanservice beach episode, I’d say. So the girls are in a dilemma to choose from their abundant choices of swimsuits. Some very skimpy and some just weird. A Brazilian samba bikini? Jun of course is in a tighter pinch. Her gender will be completely exposed especially to dense Hajime. In the previous season, there were several chances that exposed Jun’s gender but Hajime was too ‘stupid’ to realize it. What are the chances here? Beach day arrives as everyone including Yamashiro heads over the white sandy beach. As usual, Hajime is breathing down Jun’s throat because as a guy, he must be thinking of some twisted thing so he tries to force Jun and change. Poor girl. The harassment she has to go through. In the end, she just wore a shirt over so this greatly disappoints the specky kid. As for Sayaka, her intentions are to pick up some hot guys but her tactics backfired because Kanako and Yayoi’s unwitting actions are more moe. I don’t know if the beach goers have megane fetish because they get turned on when Kanako wears them and lets loose her hair in a bid to escape those perverts.
 
As Jun is walking at a secluded spot with Kaya, the latter suddenly fell into the water and she doesn’t know how to swim. Thankfully Jun pulls her out to safety. However, Arashi spots them and to her horror, she thinks Jun is the kind of person that turns into a girl when splashed by water (think Ranma, eh?). It is then the trio sat down and talk as Arashi learns Jun’s reasons for wanting to hide her gender especially from Hajime. Arashi promises to keep this a secret though she notes Jun could’ve been better friends with Hajime if she was a boy. As for Hideo and Yamashiro, the duo are fishing and somehow fished out undies. Yamashiro returns the undies to the rightful owner and in return the grateful owner gave him her email address. Hideo thinks it isn’t a bad idea so he tries to return the undies on his turn but gets slapped instead. Yeah, mistaken to be a pervert. It’s all in the looks. In the end, Jun and Hajime sort of reconciled when he gives her a beautiful round shattered glass he found but back to their love-hate relationship when he subsequently gives her a sea cucumber. Her present in return? A slap in the face. At the end of the day as they head back, Arashi tells Jun that she may be too conscious that she’s a girl and because of that, it means it isn’t that bad with Hajime. She wishes for Jun to reveal her gender to him so that they could get along better but Jun dismisses the idea of falling in love with that idiot.
 
However the gang are to stay for the night at a nearby inn in episode 2. As usual, Hajime’s demon harassing has Jun on the run once more. He wants Jun to come with him to the baths. So do you think it’s good for her to just reveal her real gender instead of having to run and run all the time? Yeah, not to mention Hajime is trying to strip her too! It’s a guy thing, you know. Thankfully their chase ended when Arashi suggests a pillow fight and Hajime fell for that idea. Meanwhile Hideo and Yamashiro play mahjong with the rest of the girls and Hideo is losing badly. Arashi, Kaya, Hajime and Jun are walking back from buying stuff and decide to do a kimodameshi (test of courage) through the graveyard. Arashi pulls Yayoi from her mahjong game for their outing. Hajime heads off first followed by Yayoi and then Kaya. Jun is left behind with Arashi as they talk about their relationship with Hajime and romance from Arashi’s point of view. Arashi reveals that when this summer ends, she will disappear and thus grateful she can exist in this world again despite just a short while and live the moment to the fullest. This brought Jun to tears as they embrace. By that time, Hajime has returned from his round. He thinks Jun is scared and forcefully takes her hand and goes another round with her.
 
In episode 3, Hideo is exhausted from his job. But partly it’s because Kanako is sucking quite a lot of life essence from him. Remember, these ghosts replenish their existence by touching the person they connect with. Just like how Hajime is to Arashi and Jun is to Kaya, Kanako and Yayoi’s source stems from Hideo. Because Kanako won’t let pure Yayoi touch filthy Hideo, Kanako sucks up most of his powers to pass on to Yayoi. The gang suggest Yayoi to get another source and to find a customer who is compatible with her. Sure the customers are taken in by Yayoi’s moeness but she is too shy so nothing gets done. So the only one left is Yamashiro. Kanako interrogates him and finds he has no flaws. Sayaka tries to flirt but is taken away. Yayoi is hesitant (Sayaka begging to give Yamashiro to her) so she runs out due to lack of confidence. After lots of thinking, she decides to accept him but Yamashiro’s dog, Josephine is going to pound on her. That’s when they find out they both could connect. Yayoi connects with a dog too? Anyway, the problem is solved.
 
The second half has Hajime using his scientific approach to solve the problems of apples’ insides turning brown. This prompts Sayaka to wonder how a science nerd could accept Arashi who is a ghost. Hajime passionately explains that when they met for the first time, he had an ultra extreme love leading experience. The rest think it’s that forbidden scandalous thingy but Arashi honestly don’t remember. In order to find out, Arashi leaps back in time to the day she first met him and told him she was possessing him. We see Hajime then just like any other person would be shocked of those words so he tries to reason with his scientific explanations, no matter how absurd it was. Future Arashi searches for him and when she does, Hajime panics and flees. Like he has seen a ghost. Yeah. For real. He peddles his bicycle as fast as he could, thinking this is a bad dream as Arashi continues to give chase. Arashi tired of going after him finally gives him an earful and is going to prove it to him by telling him to feel it. Like magic, his bicycle starts flying high in the air (hey, isn’t this like ET?) before crashing. In the arms of Arashi and admitting what he felt today is real so he is adamant that nothing can stop his feelings. That means he doesn’t care who she is and has fallen in love with her! Much to Arashi’s horror. Though that kid still doesn’t believe she’s a ghost and explains all those absurd scientific theories to her. From afar, the Hakobune people of the future are watching and are disappointed that the naughty thingy they hoped for turned out to be just a hug.
 
In episode 4, on Jun and Kaya’s rainy day off, Jun isn’t happy that her elder sister Kyouko seems to be taking things easy when it’s supposed to her turn doing the household chores. With freeloader Kaya helping out, why not? While Kaya has made several flavoured cream pies (yum!), to Jun’s horror, she learns Hajime and Arashi will be visiting them soon. Since Jun’s clothes are all wet, she starts to panic. So panic that she accidentally wears a bride dress! Kaya notes a faced-down picture of their parents so Kyouko tells her how Jun back then hates wedding dress and cries at the sight of them. Then the rain stopped. Uh oh. Hajime and Arashi are on the way. Then they started to pack and hide things from Jun’s room to other ‘unsuspecting’ places in the house. When Hajime arrives, Kyouko gets the door but Jun tries to prevent her. She slips on her dress and into the arms of Hajime just like a newly-weds. Fortunately, the thought of Jun being a girl didn’t cross his mind. See how dense this guy is? So I guess Hajime and Arashi want to be part of the fun too and dress up in a groom and bride outfit respectively. Hajime wants to go to the toilet but Kaya remembers she hid Jun’s stuff in there and manages to distract Hajime before throwing the whole baggage out. As the gang eat the delicious cream puffs, Arashi tricks Kaya and eats her cream puff portions. And all that delicious cream puffs she saved are wasted. Gone down somebody else’s stomach. Hajime then opens the fridge to see lots of panties so Kyouko tells him about the fridge is a sacred place for young girls and will tell him the rest of the story when he grows older. Whatever that means.
 
Then Hajime gets an idea for a scavenger hunt and rummages through Jun’s room, much to her horror. Jun spots her old school uniform and tries to hide it but Hajime senses something amiss and goes into his usual show-it-to-me mode. Kaya happen to walk in so Jun touches her and time travel back in time when Jun was a little kid. Kaya is disheartened that her final strawberry cream puff is ruined (splat all over Jun’s bridal dress) and breaks down but little Jun is coming in after hearing some ruckus. She comes into the dark room and is horrified to see a blood stain (strawberry filling) on a bridal dress shortly before disappearing and I guess that traumatic experience was too much for a child. Now we know why Jun hates wedding dress. When the duo return back to their normal time, this prompts Kyouko to remember how Jun saw a bloody bride that disappeared into thin air and hated wedding dresses ever since, Jun realizes all this is Hajime’s fault to begin with. But Hajime thinks Jun has got a nice house because no matter how rowdy it is, there’s always warm tea and suggests Jun need to be a better man. That’s impossible, right? Then Hajime says he has found that thing he was trying so hard to find. Since he can’t say it in front of the girls, he whispers into Jun’s ear and she gets the shock of his life. We won’t know what that is but Jun the way Jun reacted, it’s something that she wouldn’t have in the first place. Or is it?
 
In episode 5, while Hajime is gluing back his spectacles, he can’t seem to remember something really funny happened this morning. Later, the gang think Kanako has some vision problems when she’s dropping stuff while serving her customers. So Arashi lends her an extra pair of spectacles resembling closely like Hajime’s to her. When she puts them on, she transforms into a magical girl! OMG! With lines and henshin formation and all! The rest of the episode sees how the sadistic bunch try to force Kanako into putting on spectacles because they get a kick in seeing her transform. Some other side of her they’ve never seen, eh? Sayaka even has the rest wear magical girl clothes from her wardrobe collection to persuade her. But for every trick that the gang does, Kanako gracefully evades them like an acrobat. The final straw came when Hajime ruined some pickles Kanako was growing in another of his futile attempts as Kanako declares she’ll never wear spectacles in her lifetime ever again. But the gang aren’t giving up yet because Sayaka wants everyone to wear spectacles. Where did she get that bunch from? Courtesy from Hideo of course. Kanako has to because in order for Sayaka to forget all the plates and dishes she broke, this little attempt will make her forgive all her sins. Kanako agrees and puts them on but before she could finish her transformation, Yayoi lifts her specs and puts them on her forehead. Thinking this isn’t bad, Hajime calls a truce and shakes her hand. But it’s a trap since the specs are falling down. As she starts transforming, she takes Hideo and travels back in time to end it all. That morning when Hajime was returning from an errand, he is being attacked by crows who also stole his specs. Thankfully he had a spare. Magical girl Kanako appears before him (Hajime laughing like hell!) as she breaks his specs and chants a memory erasing spell before disappearing back into the future. Meanwhile the crow that stole Hajime’s specs dropped it somewhere as passing by Arashi picks it up. Ah well. Everything comes full circle now.
 
Sayaka thinks their summer isn’t complete in episode 6 so she has the gang to serve cold noodles. Arashi loves them and retells of a delicious cold noodles dish she ate long ago but couldn’t recall its name or how it is made. So the rest start speculating on how to make the dish and try to even give names to it. Trying to recreate something which one barely remembers? Anyway Arashi tastes their different versions but it wasn’t the taste she’s looking for. As for lazy Sayaka, she’s got tired of the gang trying to come up with that cold noodles Arashi tasted that she orders Hideo to buy her some cold noodles. Jun makes his version and goes to write down how she made it while Hideo arrives with Sayaka’s delivery. As Arashi tastes it later, she realizes this is the legendary tastes she has been looking for. Arashi takes Jun along and rushes out to find Hajime because she wants him to taste this too. At that time, the Kanako and Yayoi see the unattended cold noodles and alter it according to their version. Then it is Sayaka and finally Kaya’s turn (putting lots of sugar in it?). When Arashi comes back with Hajime, that poor guy nearly died after tasting the horrible cold noodles. Jun notes somebody has changed her recipe so Arashi travels back in time with Hajime so as not to let her effort go to waste. They travel a step before each added alteration and nearly died of the extreme taste so much so they may develop a fear of cold noodles. They travel back to the time just after Jun had finish making hers. But since Hideo was coming in too, they take Jun’s dish as Hideo sets up the cold noodles for Sayaka. Arashi and Hajime return back to their normal time and have the rest taste this legendary cold noodles but they find it awful. Arashi tastes it and she too herself is surprised that this isn’t it. Everyone is weary wondering where that legendary taste has gone too or was that one in the first place while Sayaka wonders where her cold noodles she ordered go. You see, you realize the cold noodles Hideo bought was the legendary one before it was spoiled by the alterations of the others? Haha. They’ll never figure this out nor taste it.
 
In episode 7, Sayaka panics because she doesn’t remember why her handphone has calls made to Yamashiro. She may think something illicit has happened. Then her scream of surprise causes Yamashiro to spill coffee on his own clothes. We find out her surprise was due to a newspaper article about a lost priceless ceramic Kobayashi tea cup worth 10 million Yen. So what’s it to Sayaka? She knew she was using it 3 days ago but couldn’t remember where she misplaced it! Well, she did tell someone to put it in the cupboard but now it isn’t there anymore. She knows it is authentic since the word "Kobayashi" was written at the bottom of the cup. So the gang go to great lengths to find the elusive Kobayashi cup. 10 million Yen is on the line, baby! Their efforts are naught so Sayaka orders them to fly back in time 3 days ago to find the cup while Yayoi and Kanako tend their home-grown pickle to give to Yamashiro as apologies. But the gang return empty handed and out of breath citing that Sayaka back then was running away from them. Looks like she was drunk at that time and wouldn’t hand over anything even if it was junk. Sayaka recalls hard and remembers she told Yayoi to put the cup in the cupboard but Yayoi does not remember telling her to do so. Sayaka then accidentally touches Yayoi and they both flew back in time. When they return, Sayaka notes the cup is still in the cupboard but didn’t take back the cup because her past self was coming in and she panicked and flew back to the future. So Arashi and Hajime decide to go on their behalf but Sayaka couldn’t wait so she goes back with Yayoi again. At that time, Kaya remembers she made some pudding in the fridge. The gang see the identical cup but inspected it and conclude this isn’t the one they’re looking for because there is no word inscribed at the bottom.
 
The time travelling team return as we see Hajime scolding Sayaka for putting their life in danger and broke some dishes back then. It was then Yayoi remembered Sayaka told her to put the cup in the cupboard. Apparently Sayaka from the past thought future Yayoi was the past Yayoi and ordered her to clean the mess. And why didn’t future Yayoi bring the cup back? Because Sayaka told her to put it in the cupboard. Duh! Sayaka wants another go but the rest object since they’ll come dangerously close to themselves. Do you think money is going to stop her? Apparently not as Sayaka calls forth a distraction before disappearing back in time with Yayoi. Of course she failed and everyone is tired so Arashi decides to make everyone coffee using the cup Kaya made her pudding. She picks a tea cup with the words Kobayashi written on the inside bottom. I guess Arashi didn’t learn to read because she thought it was some bad scratch. Not wanting it to go to waste, Kanako takes the cup and uses it to plant her pickle outside. So that’s where it was! Meanwhile Sayaka makes a call to Yamashiro wondering if he had bought tickets for a horse race 3 days ago. But it seems he has bought them earlier. Wait a minute. Something is bugging me. How did Sayaka at the start of this episode got Yamashiro’s number in her handphone when she made it at the end which is supposedly back in their normal time? Unless it’s some time paradox thingy that I didn’t understand or got left out.
 
The summer heat is reaching its peak in episode 8 and it makes sense to turn on the air-cond if they are to keep cool and continue running their business but the problem is they don’t know where the remote control is. Seriously? Okay, we have a bunch of remote controls so don’t be afraid to try them out. Unfortunately none of them works as they have either disastrous or hilarious results. But if you think that’s bad, the heat has got to Arashi and she’s like a time bomb. According to Kaya, this isn’t a good sign because Arashi was raised from a strict family and is not allowed to complain about anything. Just about anything. Once she ‘explodes’, an Emperor of Fire’s Tragedy will occur. Sounds really bad, doesn’t it. As part of her countdown, Arashi starts reciting the 10 commandments of her family rule. Better cool her down quick. Then they find an underground path and think Arashi will be cooler there. To their dismay, the underground starts shooting out hot water. Hotspring water? Not good. Countdown resumes. Arashi is turning into yandere mode and Hajime is going to die Higurashi style so Kaya did some lame joke to cool things off. Lame indeed but it worked. I wonder if her ego is hurt a bit. Then Arashi takes a direct heat from the hot splash and starts singing the Warabe Tune. The ultimate countdown to the tragedy begins. They decide to bring her back to Hakobune when a shadowy figure stands before them. Is it a monster? Nope, it’s Josephine with the real air-cond remote in her mouth. Okay, that wasn’t it either because some red alert light from Hakobune starts blinking. Then Hideo comes in and takes out a remote from his pocket. Time is running short so Hajime goes into acrobat mode to snatch and switch the air-cond on. Phew. In the nick of time. However, Hakobune suddenly transforms into a giant robot and starts flying in the air. Arashi continues her countdown and the whole place explodes in midair. What the hell?
 
Apparently everyone’s still alive like as though nothing has happened in episode 9. Here, Sayaka is back to her stingy ways wanting the gang to go back in time to bring back some food stuff that is expired now before it was expired then. Will she ever learn? But Yayoi suggests going back in time to save work that needs time like drying laundry or food that needs time to ripe. The results are convenient as everyone do their bid to do those stuff as they could have their meal just fresh and right timing for eating. Later Jun asks Hajime if he is serious in loving Arashi and Hajime asserts his undying love for her. He’s serious alright. One day Yamashiro requests to take Arashi for an outing and she accepts. Jun takes this opportunity to tell Hajime that Arashi will cease to exist once summer ends. That is when Hajime realized and is shocked to learn what he has heard. When Arashi comes back, Hajime swiftly takes her out on his own date and confronts her about her inevitable inexistence. She tells him the truth but cautions him that even if she does come back next summer, he may not recognize her. It’s complicated and something about he’ll move on in life and be an adult. Hajime is adamant that he will never forget her but she recalls someone said that to her before. Hajime confesses that he loves her but she apologizes breaking his heart as he runs away. Arashi narrates if she falls in love, she’ll just suffer, and about a person whom she missed and wanted to see so much but couldn’t. Over the next day, it is obvious that Arashi and Hajime aren’t on talking terms. But they can’t keep getting down all the time as they decide to take a time travelling trip. To everyone’s surprise, they couldn’t connect when they touched.
 
With that, Hajime seems down in episode 10 so Kanako gives him an earful but it turns into a big argument so much so Sayaka had to turn on her music louder to drown out the bickering. One night, Yayoi thinks of the age gap between Hajime and Arashi making it harder for them to understand each other. So she suggests going back in time and they may be able to do so since they’ll be around the same age. Hajime agrees and with the help of Yayoi, of he goes along with Kanako and Hideo. They arrive just before Japan’s World War II’s conquest. As expected, young Arashi comes from a wealthy family and the gang are surprised to see her riding her horse out of the mansion, not heeding her servant’s words to stay put. Hajime in his attempts to stop her gets dragged along on her horse instead. Seems Arashi is going to help out a friend of hers being bullied by a group of boys. Even kids can be heartless back then. Why scared of those thug kids? Well apparently their leader is the son to the captain of the Imperial Army. Nobody can touch him… Arashi arrives to take down the merciless boys beating up a girl (damn kids hitting a girl!). Hajime helps out and though gets some beating, soon comes face to face with the leader kid. Don’t play play. He’s drawing a real sword! It’s do or die for Hajime. Hajime beats him and sends all his subordinates scurrying away.
 
At the end of the day, Hajime tries not to reveal much about himself to Arashi so she takes his specs and claims she will return to him when she sees him the next time. In return, she kisses him and wants him to return the same too. Then they meet Arashi’s brother who is from the army. He is happy for Hajime and sort of welcomes him because he managed to break Arashi’s tomboyishness and hopes he will look after her. Shortly Hajime goes on his own way and returns back to his own time with the rest. Meanwhile Kaya and Jun show Arashi a box that Arashi thought went missing during the air raid. She opens to find a pair of specs resembling Hajime’s. Kaya notes that she has already experienced love before and though it’s hard to let go of past loves, it’s sad not to move on. Upon realizing who the specs belong to, that’s when they realize Arashi’s first love was Hajime! Arashi returns to Hakobune and though Hajime’s face is badly bruised, they both made-up and when they touch, they are able to connect once more. All’s well, ends well.
 
Due to some unknown reason in episode 11, Jun wakes up late one morning to find herself all busty and curvy! Woah! It’s like she has matured into a fine woman! Jun starts panicking, rushing her way to Hakobune and hopes no one especially Hajime will find out that it’s her. Unfortunately, Arashi recognizes her. Fortunately, nobody else did. Including Kaya. So Jun claims herself as Jun’s elder sister, Ryouko. Jun tries to tell Kaya the truth but finds out that she was the one responsible in making him sleep late so that they could hold a surprise birthday party for Jun. Kaya thinks Ryouko is also into this surprise thingy. So the gang try to find out Jun’s likes and dislikes as she hears herself the truthful opinions on what the rest think about her. Not too good if you’re considering comparing Jun and ‘Ryouko’, eh? But she has her good points too. So they decide some pie tossing surprise since Kaya mentioned Jun was talking in her sleep how she loved that. Say what? Then Jun has a talk with Hajime so the latter gives his honest opinion on Jun and probably his bad and good points are what Hajime likes about Jun. Is she flustering? Then Arashi rushes out in panic as the fruits they have prepared have gone bad. Not to fear, Hajime shows them a secret stash of edible wild strawberries and it tastes good. As Hajime rushes off to show Kaya, Jun pops one into his mouth and before she knows it, her body starts reverting to her usual flat straight kiddie one (sorry). Jun rushes home and comes to Hakobune that night and pretends to be surprised. We can tell she sucks but the plan worked out well. As Jun digs in her strawberry-filled cake, Hajime teases her that she has never tasted anything like this before. But she says she did and won’t tell him further.
 
A customer at Hakobune, Yoshimi Anamori, seems to be some sort of pervert, wanting to kiss girls like Yayoi. Arashi wants to give her a piece of her mind but she too nearly got kissed. In episode 12, the gang learn she is some manga illustrator and is trying to find inspiration for her final scene. Arashi promises to help her be her model but finds out too late as it will be a kissing scene. Can’t back out now. Furthermore, her pushy editor Umeyashiki wants her to submit her work as it is near deadline. After hearing Arashi’s poetic just and the sort, Umeyashiki extends the deadline by 6pm but if she fails to turn it in, Arashi will have to work as her assistant FOREVER!!! Sayaka thinks the suitable candidate to kiss Arashi is Hajime but surprisingly he refuses. So Yoshimi has Kaya set up with Arashi. Since Kaya felt embarrassed Yoshimi replaces her with Yayoi. And since Kanako won’t allow her lips to be tainted, Kanako replaces her. Sayaka teases Kanako she has experienced kissing someone so Yayoi goes into breakdown mode while Kanako tries to calm the misunderstanding.
 
All that’s left is Jun but she refuses on grounds that they’re different in height and size. Thus the person that is around Jun’s size is Hajime and Yoshimi is okay with the little ones making out. Gasp! Hajime is willing to do it in order not to taint Arashi’s lips but Arashi’s call distraction to allow Jun to throw Hajime over. Then they call Hideo right in a middle of a stakeout job (in the heat of summer?) for a kissing scene. He thought he was going to do it with Sayaka, till he realizes it’s Yamashiro he’s going to do it with! Yaoi! Fortunately Yoshimi isn’t a yaoi fan (phew) as she can’t draw inspiration from 2 men kissing (double phew). So all that’s left is Arashi and Hajime. But they refuse and Hajime even saying he’d rather do it with Jun a billion times! Arashi not taking that well. In the end, Yoshimi decides to kiss Arashi herself. Hajime can’t stand it and pushes Arashi over to kiss Yoshimi. Arashi too couldn’t stand that and pushes him away. That’s when Yoshimi got inspired and started drawing. She manages to meet her deadline and thanks the gang. Then in the car with Umeyashiki, it turns Yoshimi is that old military customer guy from Hakobune, Sogoru! I wonder what all this setup is for. To bring Hajime and Arashi closer? Hajime and Arashi are talking on the rooftop about why they stopped each other from kissing Yoshimi but avoid giving each other a direct answer. Arashi then blames all this was his fault and all this happened because he didn’t say okay in the beginning. Then she kisses his forehead before getting down. We find out the reason why Hajime was reluctant to kiss Arashi then. He feels a first kiss with someone you love will be wasted in front of other people. Yeah, a private affair, eh? Hmm… I agree. A secret moment shared between lovers is essential.
 
Episode 13 starts 5 years in the future with Hajime all grown up but Arashi the same teenage girl. She’s not going to visit him next summer but he’s adamant that he’ll continue on like this. She is here to fulfil her final promise. That is, to return the kiss. Then it’s revealed it’s some story Hajime was writing. Having writer’s block, eh? It sure got me there. Anyway this episode is another time travelling and messing fun. Remember back in the first season, Hajime created some strawberry and cherry bomb to get back at Yamashiro so as to keep him away from Arashi but flops miserably? Apparently he’s still got revenge on his mind and this time he’s using a very spicy kiwi for the job. Kaya is sulking because she accidentally drank a spoilt drink she made herself. Because of that, she plans on getting revenge from the humiliating whom she blames it on Hajime by making another spicy kiwi. I don’t know if she’s thinking straight because she cuts it in half, fills it with spicy filling and tapes it back. Anyone can see it’s been tampered with, right? Not according to Kaya because the tape is transparent. *Eyes rolling*. And what do you know, Arashi too has made her own spicy kiwi. Hideo orders some Kiwi Sundae so Yayoi and Kanako go make it. At that time, they heard somebody calling Takakura Ken so Kaya rushes out and bumps into Hajime and Arashi. Yup, their kiwi got mixed-up. What amazes me was Kaya couldn’t even tell her own kiwi with the badly taped tape! Oh no! Which kiwi is which? In their haste to retrieve their kiwis, Hajime, Arashi, Jun and Kaya accidentally connect and time travel. Shortly, Yayoi and Kanako pass by and pick up those kiwis. And what do you know, the real Takakura Ken shows up at Hakobune. I really don’t know who this guy is.
 
Yayoi and Kanako return with Hideo’s order. To his surprise, they got his order right as he digs in. Unfortunately, he got a taste of the spicy kiwi and is knocked out. The quartet, who has returned from their time trip, saw what happened and realized they have made the spicy kiwi. That’s when Yamashiro comes in and Hajime is upset about his tardiness and bad timing that put foiled his plans. Yayoi gives him cream puff as thanks. Sweet tooth Kaya too wants some of the cream puff that Yayoi had abundantly made but finds out she has added kiwi in them. Yamashiro digs in but nothing happens. Kaya can’t take this Russian roulette thingy and since her mind is not at ease, she and the conspirators plan to travel back in time to rid of the spicy kiwis. When they go back in time just before Yayoi made them, Arashi screams out Takakura Ken upon seeing the real one entering Hakobune. Because of that, Yayoi is also distracted so Hajime grabs both the spicy kiwis on the table. Jun wonders about the third kiwi but Hajime thinks it’s Hideo’s fate to have eaten the kiwis and that history can’t be changed. Back in normal time, the rest are going to have their kiwi dessert. Brimming with confidence, Kaya takes a bite but is taken out by its spiciness. If both spicy kiwis are with Hajime, how can there be another one? They think there is a fourth one but Hajime asserts he only made 1. Hideo heard it and it’s payback time as he forces Hajime to eat his own project: spicy papaya. Wargh! It is revealed that when Yayoi and Kanako went to make Hideo’s order, they wanted something green but the kiwi wasn’t enough and used wasabi instead. Yeah, Hideo got knocked out by the wasabi taste. In the aftermath, Hajime talks to Arashi about the past, future, destiny and moving forward towards the unknown. Whether their fate is set or not, it’s best to keep trying. With that, Arashi notes her summer hasn’t end yet.
 
Even if she said that, I guess that’s the end for the series. So far I have not heard of any sequel in the near future but if you really want to know the future, find somebody that you can connect with and see if there’s any sequel, okay? Then let me know. Haha. And if they make an OVA, maybe they’ll call it Haru No Arashi. Haha! For this particular season, I find it a good mix between the development of the characters in terms of their past and the fun time travelling mess-cum-chaos. Though the time paradox aren’t complicated as before, at least I still find them enjoyable though most people felt they are like fillers. We learn that Hajime and Arashi’s destined meeting was caused by themselves. Who would have thought that Arashi’s first love was Hajime from the future and probably why she didn’t return her love when they first met was because of the thought he didn’t remember her during their first encounter. Seventy years is a bloody long time to wait and remember even if you’re a ghost. I’m glad it all worked out in the end and that they still loved each other (may not be too obvious). Other developments like how the ladies can only exist during summer are an eye opener. Whether they will disappear when autumn comes or come back again same time next year is yet to be seen. But hey, why fret over trivial stuff of the future? Go all out and have fun in your summer days that will never return.
 
This season also focuses a little more on Jun as there are a handful of episodes with her in the limelight. Though her gender may be found out by Arashi but it will take a lot more to convince Hajime. You can say her secret is safe. Hey, Hajime did not actually accept the fact that Arashi is a ghost, right? Yayoi is still a naive girl while Kanako is still overprotective on her. As viewers have seen the first season, the pair are the ones responsible for that sepia-like film rolling narration of some book Yayoi read but always forgot its title. In this season, the narrations are more towards a particular dish which also Yayoi can’t remember much. After some detailed (or perhaps exaggerated) explanation, it usually ends with Kanako knowing the dish and nothing much happens. Yeah, that’s it. What were you expecting? If not food, then it’s some movie she watched but can’t remember the title. Does she have some memory problem? As for Sayaka, I noticed that in this season she is sometimes doing some sort of ‘action’ in the background whether she’s moving her hands or swaying her body while talking. I don’t know if it’s some sort of exercise or done on purpose to distract viewers and make them go what-the-hell-is-she-doing reaction. Maybe it’s part of her role to get more screen time, know what I’m saying?
 
Apart from being a regular customer at Hakobune, I find that the stakeout jobs Hideo does as a private detective to be odd. Maybe he needs the money so he’d take on odd requests. And each time he orders a takeout from Hakobune, it is pretty darn hilarious Yayoi and Kanako can never get it right and deliver him some other kind of dish. So it’s no surprise that he was really shocked to see that Kiwi Sundae he ordered came out right. Well, just the looks at least. The kind and gentle Yamashiro is still another regular at Hakobune and with the introduction of Josephine, this guy is like he’s got some points scored with the ladies, if they are ever interested anyway. Remember that guy who is always trying to order salt but never gets it? There were several times he came close to getting it but never did such as finally getting his hands on the salt container but to his dismay it is empty. Is it so hard to get them? By the way, I don’t know if his wish was finally granted in the end because in the final episode, after millions of his trademark line "Excuse me, salt please", Arashi finally hands one to him. Don’t know if that was a fake or not because there was no follow up on whether his ultimate dream came true or not. But he was damn surprised to get it. Congratulations, pal. Was it worth the wait? And as mentioned, that Soguru guy’s role still bugged me. Can’t comprehend the reason he impersonate as Yoshimi. Maybe it’s all part of that destiny thing for Hajime and Arashi to grow closer to each other.
 
Though this season the art and drawing remained consistent with the first season, I can’t help but noticed that some of the episodes are in low quality. Meaning that if you look closer, at times you’ll find the drawing and art of the characters to be rather simple. Except for the first and last episode, the quality was good so it got me thinking if this was done on purpose as a cost cutting measure. Maybe because of that, I noticed that there are less parodies as compared to the previous season. Sure the School Rumble characters do appear (during the part whereby sicko Hajime was chasing Jun down the hallways of the inn just to strip her) but I don’t see other cameo characters from other animes appearing as Hakobune’s customers anymore.
 
I didn’t like the opening theme for this season, Oyasumi Paradox by Etsuko Yakushimaru, because it has techno feel in it and it sounds weird. I don’t understand what that running timer is for as it’s being displayed for the entire duration for the whole opening credits. Besides the weird opening credits animation (Arashi underwater like in suspended animation?), the only thing unique I find about it is the credits shown in the form of bubbles as they float across the screen. The ending theme by the seiyuus of Arashi, Kaya, Yayoi and Kanako is Otome No Junjou and sounds like a video game song. Even the ending credits animation shows the quartet in some RPG character outfit (not to mention the computer pixels that they are made up of) while in the background a montage of ‘frantic’ black and white scenarios. There are also lots of insert songs used to light up Hakobune that reminds me of the retro days but I’m not sure whether they played them during the first season. The thing missing from this season is that weird comic strip of a mangaka and an alien during the next episode preview. Instead it is replaced with pages from the manga of the series itself as the characters as usual rant about anything about summer except what’s in store for the next episode. Remember to wake up early and healthy tomorrow too. And yes, the illustrations from various people at the end are still there. Some really good and some just plain funny.
 
Come to think of it, this whole entire series of both seasons took place during a single summer. I know, even if I kept mentioning that word it still did not occur to me nor do I see the connection. So well even if it is still purely fiction and men’s wish to even alter time, but remember that it is eventually our own hands that shape our own destiny and fate, the past, present and future. Do you really want to know what your future lies? Do you really want to know what happened back then? Just sit back and relax, take a step at a time and discover things out at your own pace because it’s more fun that way. Like me, watching my animes slowly. That’s my eternal summer, baby!
 

Natsu No Arashi

Arcade Gamer Fubuki

August 6, 2010

Watching Arcade Gamer Fubuki brings back nostalgic memories prior to my anime days when I was playing games on my computer. Not to say I was an avid or addicted gamer, but at least I had a fair share of interest in it, especially those fighting games. Although this anime OVA was produced in year 2002, the games that featured in this series felt like mostly from the 80’s, 90’s and the turn of the millennium.
 
For those of you who aren’t born in the noughties, remember the times when we had to go to arcade shops and play those huge arcade machines if we ever want to get our kicks off video games? Ah yes. I remember the wildly and hugely popular Street Fighter 2. Who doesn’t? This anime features gamers who play those big arcade machines unlike those consoles we have now in our living rooms and even portable palm size ones. Look at how far the industry of gaming has come. So the in this series, the Best of Arcade Gamer (BAG) Tournament is held once every 4 years where the best gamers of the world gather and compete to be the best players in the world. And as the title suggest, it focuses on a gamer, Fubuki Sakuragasaki.
 
Episode 1
A building is under fire as a weird beaver tooth cap guy, Arashi, rushes in to save the president. The latter warns that ‘they’ are back before passing out. The scene changes to a crowded Tokyo Tournament stadium. Fubuki seems to be a well known gamer among the crowd. The regional finals pits her against some boxer dude, Glassjo. The arcade game they will be competing is some wall climbing game called Crazy Climber. As soon as the referee gives the green light, Glassjo immediately makes headway but Fubuki fumbles and drop her coin (yeah, remember those days where you need to insert coins to start playing). And when she finally does, Fubuki mentions she doesn’t even know how to play! How in the first place did she become a famous player? Her best friend, Hanako Kokubunji, shouts out to her about the game spirit. This prompts Fubuki to remember her past whereby that Arashi guy consoled her and gave words of encouragement when she lost a game. He also gave her Passion Panty and with this, she will always have the game spirit in her. Wait a minute. Panties? Now all fired up, Hanako helps activate Passion Panty. Well, this is how it powers Fubuki up. The mini fan blows Fubuki’s skirt up and reveals her Arashi emblem panties. With that, she becomes invisible with her Ichigeki-de-Clear move. It’s like she’s doing a handstand position in mid-air while button mashing the controls at lightning speed. Am I supposed to be impressed? Glassjo sees her panties and recognizes her. I’m not sure if it’s his perverted nature that got him to nose bleed, knock out and lose the game. With Fubuki’s win, she advances to the National Finals.
 
However some masked wrestler with a flat face, dubbed Mr Mystery, makes his ‘grand’ entrance, that is, falling flat on his face at first. No pun intended. He wants Fubuki to do better or else she won’t stand a chance at the Finals. Moreover, he advises her not to play more than an hour a day. So what’s a couple of gamers to do after an event? Why, play more games! Hanako takes Fubuki to the arcade whereby they hook up to an international network of players via a game called X. They recognize Fubuki but she lost upon knowing everyone saw her panties via that flashy move. Hanako suggests to practice more so that she could win without using it. Meanwhile the leader of an evil organization, Gyurashikku-dan, isn’t pleased with Fubuki’s development. Thinking she will be a formidable enemy if left alone, he despatches his minions, led by Miss Alka to finish her off.
 
Fubuki wakes up from a dream about her missing dad. As she heads to school, she receives an anonymous SMS to beware the Gyurashikku-dan. Hanako soon joins them but they are suddenly encountered with rolling obstacles you see in video games, courtesy from Alka. After all that dodging, they safely arrive at their school and meet an obnoxious girl on roller blades, Chizuru Jumonji. Seems Hanako and Chizuru don’t get along well. To make things worse, Chizuru is the new transfer student in their class. During PE, Hanako and Chizuru challenge each other to baseball. While Fubuki is more like a klutz, Chizuru wins via homerun. She hit 3 balls away! Hey, is that legal in the first place? Later Alka and her minions are reviewing a replay video of that baseball match and she thinks Fubuki is too much of a doofus to be a threat but a girl warns not to jump to conclusions yet and not to judge a book by its cover. Doesn’t she look like Chizuru?
 
The Nationals Finals is here as Fubuki manages to win her match. Then she and Hanako spot the Osaka champion manning the controls like a pro. No, super cyborg. How can somebody hit the buttons 30 times in a second?! She wins and is revealed to be Chizuru. She gets straight to the point. She wants to challenge Fubuki who is the best player. Before that she summons Gyurashikku-dan as they take everyone hostage and the tournament under their control. Seems Chizuru is using her Osaka champion title as a disguise and is one of the four kings of Gyurashikku-dan whose goal is world domination (what’s new? Say what? World domination via video games?). The battle starts as they play a shooting game. Mr Mystery is rushing to the spot and hopes Fubuki won’t use her Passion Panty move. But too late. Chizuru also unleashes her Black Passion Panty move and it’s obviously weird to see 2 girls playing the arcade in mid-air handstand position. In the end, Fubuki lost. However Fubuki doesn’t seem down or upset. Motivated, she tells Chizuru that she will work harder to beat her before the Gyurashikku-dan disappears. Will she win? You bet she will. Because world peace depends on her! Isn’t that too heavy a responsibility for a gamer? What the heck has world peace got to do with it anyway?!
 
Episode 2
Fubuki prays to her dad’s photo about her recent loss when Mr Mystery crashes into the room via the window (seriously, could he have just used the door?). He hands her a card and says if she intends to know the reason why she lost, come to Jigokugawara for some special training. Despite its name, it’s some hotspring resort area as Hanako is also there. She tells Fubuki that due to Gyurashikku-dan’s interference, the previous match is declared invalid and will be replayed. Thus, a chance for Fubuki to regain her status as they go play some arcade games as practice. The area is soon crowded as they see the crowd amazed a busty American, Melody Honey (is she taken from Keroro Gunsou?) doing perfectly in a dance game. Honey soon takes Fubuki and dance together. The crowd is pleased with their performance so Honey hopes to enjoy another game together in the future. Meanwhile Alka reports the elimination of Fubuki but the leader Gyurashikku-dan isn’t pleased because the match is going to be replayed. Chizuru is confident she will finish the job as long as he keeps the end of his promise. But Alka isn’t happy that the cocky brat doesn’t know her place and plans to teach her a lesson and get back at her.
 
Chizuru arrives at an old arcade game shop run by her Occhan at the hotspring area. Chizuru talks about planning to repay his debt by getting back some Tranquillizer Gun to prevent this nostalgic childhood place of hers to be closed down. Fubuki and Hanako just came in and because of the latter’s remarks of this plain and rusty place, Chizuru keeps them out and throws salt at them. The duo go take a bath with Honey and when they finish, Fubuki is shocked to see her Passion Panty is missing. Alka and her minions barge into the old arcade game shop. She tells her Chizuru isn’t needed anymore and that since they’re an evil organization, they aren’t going to fulfil their promise to her anyway (something to do with the Tranquillizer Gun). This upsets Chizuru as the minions get hold of them and prepare to trash the place. Soon, Hanako and embarrassed Fubuki (running around town without anything underneath). They are ready to fight but Alka is confident Fubuki can’t do anything without her Passion Panty. Yup, she reveals she was the one who stole them. Thinking she has the ultimate power in her hands, she puts them on but nothing happens. Feeling embarrassed and pissed, she rips Passion Panty, much to Fubuki’s dismay. However Mr Mystery was playing nearby and he is thrilled with this place because it has rare games and the arcades are in tip top condition. The minions pound on him but he blasts them away. Mr Mystery gives Fubuki a new pair of Passion Panty. When she puts it on, she gets a new power and move, Ten Chi Jin, which sends all those baddies flying away. Alka calls for a retreat. Though Chizuru still remains cocky, Occhan hopes for them to forgive her because he believes she’s a nice girl beneath that exterior. Just that she hang out with the wrong crowd.
 
The Nationals Finals semi-final replay has Fubuki being pitted against Ruriran Leila. As expected, Fubuki wins and faces a rematch with Chizuru. Both go into battle mode and unleash their Passion Panty technique. I don’t know if it’s the panties or what because it’s like so powerful that they could control a tornado to support their arcade machine and move it here and there. Absurd or awesome? Fubuki seems to be losing but when she sees Mr Mystery giving her the thumbs up (his thumb lights up on fire!), Fubuki got a feeling that he may be the person who first gave her the Passion Panty. The intense battle to outwit and outdo each other soon turns into more of fun rather than competitive. In the end, Fubuki wins with a score of 99,999,990 points! WOW!!! I can never get that high score in my entire life! She beats Chizuru by just 10 points! Though Chizuru apologizes to Occhan for her lost, he doesn’t mind because he knows she did her best and looked so happy while playing it. Chizuru congratulates Fubuki and so does Mr Mystery. He notes she is now on par with the top gamers of the world before going away. The place is so crowded that Fubuki had no chance to go after him because she thinks he is her father.
 
Episode 3
Alka is playing a crane game to take out some insect trapped in amber for Gyurashikku-dan’s leader’s evil plan to stop Fubuki from further evolving. Meanwhile it is the final BAG World Tournament and the place is at Mt Fuji, Japan. I know it’s bloody crowded that every darn gamer in the world is there to catch the World Cup of video gaming but did the announcer exaggerate by saying that there are 100 billion gamers worldwide?! How many humans are there on this planet again? Chizuru makes her way through the crowd and isn’t pleased to see Hanako sitting comfortably in a room of her own like a princess. Well, her dad is the main sponsor of the event. Plus, he is that president we saw way back in episode 1. Hanako allows her to be in if she becomes her special pet. She does. How cheap. We see several BAG champions of the world and you wonder if this is a cosplay gathering. Hey, isn’t that Keroro Gunsou’s Kururu? I wonder which country that bear comes from. Clumsy Fubuki makes her entrance but trips so she gives the whole world a ‘free service’. The rule of this game is simple. It is a battle royale till the last one is left standing. Of course Alka and her minions are there as she reveals that the American champion Honey is one of the four kings. Unfortunately for her, Honey and Fubuki are getting together like as though they’re best friends. Then Mr Mystery makes his appearance. Supposedly the defending champion, Fubuki barrages him lots of questions like if he’s her dad. But he tells her if she wants to know, fight and beat him. I don’t know how but the announcer said the fight escalated into a mask match. Which will be taken away? His mask or her panty? WTF?!
 
The game starts as the gamers dash into the woods around Mt Fuji where the matches will take place. Fubuki tries to keep up with Mr Mystery but slides down a cliff. She meets her first contender, Honey. Their match will be a fighting game in the form of Virtua Fighter. Because Honey is only good at rhythm games, Fubuki wins but Honey isn’t upset over her lost and instead you could say their friendship blossom further. Something Alka isn’t too happy about that ‘wimp’ and thinks the next fighter will finish her off. Fubuki, determined to catch up with Mr Mystery, fights and defeats other gamers one by one. She’s on a roll! How did they become champions anyway? Finally she comes face to face with him but he invites her to drink tea first. Must be thirsty from all that fighting, eh? Suddenly a velociraptor appears from behind Mr Mystery and swallows him! OMG! It is revealed that this Raptor is one of the four kings, revived and reprocessed with better DNA (I guess that’s what the insect amber is for). So Fubuki accepts Raptor’s challenge to another fighting game. This time it’s Fighting Vipers 2. I don’t know if a dinosaur with 3 fingers on each hand could play an arcade game so well but he’s so damn good that he even uses his tail! WTF?! However Fubuki is just standing there and getting whipped. No, she’s not in shock but rather quite upset that the person she believed to be her dad was swallowed by a dinosaur. With her rage reaching maximum limit, she pulls off a new move called Game Spirit’s Typhoon to knock out Raptor.
 
Then to everyone’s surprise, Mr Mystery breaks out of Raptor’s stomach and soon after Ruriran emerges. Why is she here? Ruriran apologizes to Alka saying that she really wanted to join this tournament and had replaced the real one. So where is the real Raptor? Sleeping soundly and probably had eaten too much junk food in the locker room. Some Raptor. I thought he would prefer meat. With Fubuki the winner, she and Mr Mystery are the only ones left standing. The deciding game is Moon Crester. As it begins, Fubuki isn’t her usual self as she has her doubts. So Mr Mystery pulls off his Moonsult Plus Fire Top move. OMG! His fists are on flames! Why is he bashing the controls?! The move seems familiar so Fubuki’s worse fears come true. She breaks down saying she can’t fight against her father and did not want Fashion Panty in the first place. She did not want to be the best gamer in the world so why must she fight him. Mr Mystery tells her to trust her powers and it doesn’t matter who he is now but what her heart tells her. Fubuki feels hard and concludes that the game spirit wants her to fight more. With that, she gets her confidence back and battles it out with Mr Mystery. However their game is interrupted when a bright beam of light emits from their arcade machines towards Mt Fuji. The mountain starts to crack and a ferocious character stands before them. The final boss?
 
Episode 4
That guy calls himself Mr 20 and is not only one of the four kings of Gyurashikku-dan but its leader. Oh yeah. The big boss has finally appeared. Seems he has hacked the entire world’s computer and communication system with the supposedly perfect game he created, X. He challenges the duo to defeat X. If they fail, the entire computer network will fall into his hands. That’s like taking over the world, right? Fubuki throws Mr Mystery a challenge to decide who among them will be the true BAG champion by being the first to defeat X. The duo combine their powers and show the world why they are the best gamers in the world by clearing the early stages easily. Meanwhile the other girls want Alka to reveal where Mr 20’s location but her lips are tightly sealed. So they try to ‘persuade’ her by making her becoming Raptor’s meal. All that junk food not enough, eh? Yeah, need solid meat!
 
Before she could spill the beans, President reveals that Mr 20 was his colleague and vice president during the days when they were trying to create the best games in the world. One day, they spot a couple of kids fighting in their arcade but they were just acting out fighting moves from the video games they were playing. Mr 20 got saddened that they’re supposed to make games that kids are supposed to enjoy and not beat each other up. To make things worse, a news report a missile using their computer gaming technology was used to end some rebellion. That’s when he snapped and couldn’t take it anymore that they’re using games as murder tools. Mr 20 felt guilty and left on a journey, supposedly his way of taking responsibility. While travelling through a war-torn country, he tries to save a couple of kids from an incoming missile. WTF?! He’s trying to hold back the huge missile with his bare hands! Where does he get such power?! In reality it should’ve exploded upon contact. Anyway, he lost (duh!). The missile exploded and the next thing he knew, he was revived. Though his body was destroyed, his soul was transferred into a machine server. He did lots of thinking and decided to create this secret evil Gyurashikku-dan in order to reset the world and have no qualms in becoming a demon of revenge. Mr Mystery isn’t happy about that because he remembers he didn’t revive him for that purpose. So if you haven’t guessed by now, Mr Mystery is Arashi. I just wonder how his physical body ended up so vastly different. Because Mr 20 has changed, Arashi didn’t give him Passion Panty and ran away with it. According to him, Passion Panty will reveal its true powers only to how pure your love of games is. Hey, what about if somebody like eroge and H-games…
 
Fubuki and Mr Mystery manage to reach the final stage, a stage where nobody has reached before. As expected, Mr 20 is the final boss. He shows them how the X network is ruling every computer in the world. Mr Mystery makes a naughty remark that he will have free access to all the porn sites in the world but he ignores him. Mr 20 is confident they will never beat him because he is God. Pfft. Another guy who has such thinking. Unless he has God mode on lah. The heroes combine their powers once more and pull off flashy moves to fight Mr 20. Keep in mind that they’re just tapping and mashing the button controls while their in-game characters do all the flashy fighting. Mr Mystery takes a direct hit in the head meant for Fubuki. His mask is nearly peeling off so before he disappears, he tells Fubuki she has to beat him before he finishes rewriting the game data or else it’s really game over. That’s right, she must attain the true ending of the game with her own hands. Create your own ending, eh? Fubuki refuses to be defeated when her friends managed to hack into the system. Hanako reminds her of how they first met at the crane game machine and Hanako was a real pro. She offers to give Fubuki her doll but the latter insists she wants to win one on her own. That’s when their friendship began. Hanako wants Fubuki to stop so that she don’t have to get hurt any further and return home to play more games together but Mr 20 cuts the transmission.
 
However Fubuki isn’t cowed. She tells him about the wonderful experience of gaming and the many people she has met. Suddenly everyone is connected to X and starts cheering Fubuki on. Their support is so overwhelming that everybody has got an Arashi emblem flashing on them. Not only that, Fubuki’s Passion Panty evolves and changes into its own emblem. A single yellow star with the initials PP below. Hey wait a minute. Doesn’t this look like Vietnam’s flag? I hope they’re trying not to imply communism here. Just kidding. And with her new move, Super Nova Trinity, she defeats Mr 20. Before he disappears, he sees a flashback of how he was playing video games with improving little Fubuki. Oh I should have seen this coming that he was her dad. He promised how they should have a serious match that put all their souls in it once she becomes much better. As Fubuki and Mr Mystery is transported back to the real world, Mr 20 congratulates her for using X to bridge and connect people’s heart to defeat him rather than a network he created originally to spread hatred across the world. That’s when Fubuki realizes who he really is. She calls out to him but to no avail. Back on ground, Fubuki is overcome with emotion and cries in her mother’s bosoms.
 
Mr Mystery then tells Fubuki her dad is still alive and brings them to see him. I’m not sure where this server place is but everyone gets to see his computer self. He wishes for mommy to take care of Fubuki because he’s going for another trip. I don’t know if that means crossing the universe. Where else can his soul go? I know Fubuki says she’ll wait forever but her dad’s already dead physically, right? Unless she meant seeing him in the afterlife. Just kidding. Next day, we see a BAG tournament trophy rightfully belonging to her in Fubuki’s house. She goes out with her pals as they try to buy X2 before it’s being sold out. Hmm… Alka is tanned and tad friendly and hey, Raptor is still around! Won’t anyone get frightened to see it running around with a Ruriran in its tiny arms? Well, she did made friends with it. Mr Mystery continues to watch Fubuki from afar and hopes they’ll meet again in part 2. Wait a minute. There’s a part 2? Maybe he was talking about the game sequel.
 
The future of gaming
I can forgive the feel good ending since it’s an old anime anyway. I did a little research and found out that this OVA is a spin-off from 1982 video game themed anime Game Center Arashi. No wonder that weird looking Arashi makes cameo appearances here because he was the main protagonist in the original version. Something about the drawing and art about this series. Yes, it is old school but they somehow reminded me of 2×2=Shinobuden and especially Keroro Gunsou. I’m not sure if they’re produced by the same company but you know, the characters’ face looking a little round and cute and since I did notice a few characters from the latter said series. That Honey girl, I faintly remember that accent and personality but Keroro Gunsou anime was produced much later. Hmm… There are quite a number of retro video games and video game parodies that appear in this anime. And I think they used real screenshots of it. Unfortunately, I’m not that old enough to recognize many of them unless they’re those of the fighting genre.
 
It amuses me a lot to see the characters pulling off very absurd and exaggerated moves when they’re hitting the controllers. Why do you need to flip, twist, somersault and a bunch of other acrobatic moves when it is the game characters that need to be doing the action? Maybe that’s how it works. You can’t pull off a super move without the usual process. It’s like you need to hit the right buttons to activate a cheat code, right? Right. And the names they give their moves too… Mr Mystery is such a mysterious character, if not a funny one. Besides his physical change from Arashi, I wonder what he sees in Arashi to be the best gamer. Maybe he felt she is the chosen one to save the world? And why did he first tell her not to play video games for more than an hour daily earlier on? Why is it the game spirit is in the form of a panty? Does it really give Fubuki power? I know, fanservice. But since this is old school anime, so-so only lah. Then there’s this guy called Sanpeita. He’s some sort of a Fubuki-maniac who is always seen holding a video recorder and hiding in some gym box equipment. He’s like so annoying that’s why I left him out from my blog. Just like everybody else who doesn’t know who he is because they don’t care and just let him hang around since he isn’t a threat. He doesn’t really contribute anything much except for revealing how stuff works and to provide comic relief. And I guess with Mr 20 gone, the evil Gyurashikku-dan is disbanded too.
 
So what are your thoughts on gaming now? Sure it has come a long way and it is still debatable whether it has positive or negative effects on our children. With the various types of games and methods to play them, well it depends on the nature of the game and how susceptible that person is to be influenced by it. But as you can see that some are so good that they literally make a living as video game testers or as professional competitors with major tournaments organized worldwide every year. You don’t need flashy moves or Passion Panty to win. Lots of luck, skill and love for the game. While I am not inclined to take out my old games to relive those button mashing, don’t-understand-what’s-going-on (some games were too confusing for me to comprehend back then) and repetitive platform games (oh the horror of dying thousands of times and replaying to inadvertently master it), but at least I can say I didn’t turn into a violent delinquent while playing fighting games, a trigger-happy riot with shooting ones, a bloodthirsty loser with action games, slay harmless animals to practice and increase my RPG level, a sly and cunning fraud with strategy games or a road bully-cum-speedster with racing simulations. Which means to say I won’t turn into a pervert or a rapist if I ever lay my hands on eroges, H-games and adult content simulations, right? Maybe I should try them one of these days and back in my own room… Hey, have you seen those arcade shops around anymore?
 

Arcade Gamer Fubuki