Shukufuku No Campanella

July 30, 2011

The last time I watched a harem RPG genre anime was Tears To Tiara. Something tells me that Shukufuku No Campanella fits under this bill too. Okay, maybe not. Perhaps the party seemed like they had more girls than the guys, that’s all. Besides the feel of the main characters like being an RPG party, I guess the other matters differ very much between the 2 series. One thing, we don’t have a certain Demon Lord amassing his harem at an alarming rate nor the girls proclaiming to be his wife. Even so, we all know that the girls like him because he’s a nice caring guy.

Perhaps it is just coincidence that recently I’ve been watching a handful of fantasy RPG genres adapted into anime. I have not played the game form that it was originally released from but as usual, I read it was first released as an adult visual game (what else should we expect?) but was later turned into one that is acceptable for all ages. I guess with characters this cute, it’s a shame to turn them into erotic styles. As usual, one of my weak points in watching such genres is to remember the unique names and terms. It really took me a while to even remember the names and understand the certain terminologies that are distinctive to this series. Thank goodness it wasn’t that bad. So by the time I finished watching this anime, I could recall names and terms with my eyes closed. I consider that an achievement!

Episode 1
The story takes place on a fictional island called Ert’Aria. Magic and all those stuff that are in need to be operated by is called Ale. As seen, the people of the island is preparing Meteor Shower Festival which happens only once in every 7 years. We are introduced to the several protagonists of the Oasis Clan. We have the lead guy, Leicester Maycraft, an item engineer of the clan; the maid and servant of Oasis Clan Nina Lindberg (never seem to step outside the clan house); Carina Verritti dubbed the Jewel of Ert’Aria who is Leicester’s childhood friend (*wink, wink*); Self proclaimed best puppeteer in the world and one-(wo)man show travelling performer, Agnes Boulange (don’t forget her huge appetite) and her automaton cat Tango; a Knight Templar with a very bad sense of direction, Chelsea Arcot; Leicester’s very young looking mom who is also a bit lecherous, Shelley (young enough to be his sister if you ask me). Oasis Clan also has a ‘rival’ clan house but they aren’t loggerheads. The Tortilla sisters Salsa and Ritos and their huge Golem always seem to butt their nose into Oasis’ affairs simply because, just like the rest of the other girls, they have a crush on Leicester. Salsa being the eldest sister always falls victim to sly and crafty Ritos’ pranks and jokes. You’d enjoy seeing the interaction between them. Believe me, you will. That night the gang gear up to watch the Meteor Shower atop the cathedral (with permission from Carina’s dad, Fabious who is also the Archduke of Ert’Aria). A little ‘argument’ who should be by Leicester’s side. As they watch the magnificent meteor shower streaking across the night sky, there is a big one seemingly headed their way. Uh oh. Even if it’s just a cluster of Ale and has no mass, it’ll be bad if it hits them, right? Well, Shelley isn’t panicking since it isn’t really going to hit them, but the cathedral’s tower. Leicester rushes there where he finds a sleeping little girl, Minette, opening her eyes for the first time. Upon seeing him, she instantly hugs him and calls him “Papa”. Please don’t tell me he has an illegitimate child! Sonna wake nai! (Of course not!). Well you see, at the beginning of this episode, we saw Minette in some suspended-like animation talking with someone about the day she will be ‘born’ and bring happiness to people when she opens her eyes. So I guess this is the day (or night rather)?

Episode 2
Girls like Carina would go berserk upon hearing some little girl called him Papa knowing very well that he is still single, right? Is he? So fortunately we have Leicester’s dad, Nagan and Shelley explaining about her activation due to the meteor shower and being created by the world’s number one puppeteer: Mizeh Altoise. Agnes was self proclaimed, remember? As a matter of fact, Altoise is Agnes’ Maitresse (that’s French for a female mistress as in master of a certain profession) and in this case her teacher. You can’t leave a little girl by herself so they bring Minette back to Oasis and let her stay here. Would it be natural for a father and daughter to sleep together? Not if the other girls want a piece of that too. Ah, it’s getting livelier at the clan house and a new woman upstaging everybody else… Down to business, Minette learns that clan houses such as their can take on requests. You know, if you have trouble, any sort of trouble that needs fixing, you can put in a request to a clan house and have them go on a quest to solve it for you. Fabious pays them a visit and after his little ruckus, has Oasis undertake a little quest. Apparently one of the meteors last night struck the underground treasury near their house and due to the large flowing power of the Ale, some treasures are turning into harmful Crystal Monsters. Fabious wants them to investigate the treasury. Upon entering the treasury, they are faced with a dragon with a Crystal on its forehead. They attack it but it keeps regenerating. They hear a voice, turns out to be some floating girl, Garnet, asking Minette’s opinion on the dragon. She notes it to be in pain and troubled. She advices Minette to communicate her feelings to the dragon. She and Leicester apologize for their attack and would like it to share their warm feelings. Minette’s Anima Pearl (a type of Crystal that is able to absorb and store greater amount of Ale as compared to normal Crystals) stabilizes the dragon’s Ale, returning to its crystal form. As they discuss with Garnet the source of this, they learn she is that dragon’s avatar. Which means everything was her fault to begin with. She couldn’t handle it herself since she used up most of her power. Garnet gives the dragon’s Crystal to Minette and if she has anything to ask, she can use it to summon her out. Everyone returns and have fun at the beach. Oasis’ other member (and the only other guy around who carries a big axe – don’t worry, he isn’t a total loser), Nick La’juck returns from a quest to join them. Now Leicester has a tougher mission than the dragon quest: Deciding whose swimsuit is the cutest. I agree the former was much easier.

Episode 3
Another quest for the Oasis people. They are to find a Black Rainbow Flower within Laschutatto forest. Since it absorbs light and leaving its surroundings ominously dark (like Crystals absorbing Ale), there is a risk of it being attacked by Crystal Monsters. Along the way, Chelsea got lost, Salsa got into another one of Ritos’ pranks while tailing Oasis and Carina remembers how Leicester gave her Montecchia (Carina’s magic wand that resembles like an oar) that gave her the ability to travel the world despite her weak body. Leicester and Carina arrive at a darkened part of the forest and find the Flower. Suddenly they are attacked by a swift Crystal Monster. Deducing its attack pattern, they manage to remove the Crystal and the creature to a harmless cute looking squirrel. Leicester and Carina fall into an ambiguous position after the latter’s magic powers run dry. After collecting the Flowers and returning to Oasis, Leicester thinks of using the Crystal to install a talking function in Montecchia so that for instance it could warn her when its powers are running low. Carina helps Leicester with the installation (to me it looked like just putting a string in different patterns) and work late into the night till they are successful. With its ability to talk now, Montecchia even expresses its delayed heartfelt gratitude to Carina. Then it starts spouting embarrassing stuff like her deep feelings for Leicester. Oh dear. Is there an ‘off’ button somewhere? Regret making it talk, eh?

Episode 4
After Agnes delivers another one of her awesome puppet road show, an old lady spectator makes a request. The quest takes Oasis towards the mountains and into a closed mine looking for Ale suitable for the hotspring. They continue digging till they reach a room with a shining Crystal in it. Due to its strange flow of Ale, the entire mine starts shaking so the gang makes haste to get out before they get buried alive. Unfortunately as the ceiling caves in, the gang are separated. Leicester and Agnes on one side and the rest on the other. Luckily nobody was seriously injured. They promise to find their own way and meet each other outside. Leicester and Agnes trek through the dark cave (probably the producers think they need to have a little screen time together) and in no time everyone finds their way out. Back at Oasis, they use some of the Crystals for the hot bath. Shelley decides to have some fun playing a little prank. She sends Agnes into the bath without telling her that Leicester is inside using it. If it’s not awkward enough for the duo to see each other naked, it becomes even more when Minette, Carina and Chelsea are heard coming in. Thankfully the trio are as ‘blind as a bat’ because even if the duo hid next to the corner shelf, I’m sure they could’ve been spotted by the edge of their eyes. Oh yeah, they’re hugging each other since the space is a little cramp. Still naked. Agnes goes to join the other girls in the bath while Leicester finishes up and probably would like to tell his mom about a thing or two about her prank.

Episode 5
Since there is no request today at Oasis, they will be taking the day off. Garnet isn’t happy that Minette hasn’t summoned her since (was there a need to?). Minette and Garnet are tasked to buy ingredients for their curry dinner while the Tortilla sisters spy and tail them. Along their way across the island (since some of the ingredients in town are out of stock and have to get them from the other side), they meet Agnes in her street performance, Carina in her guarding duty and lost Chelsea at the port. Garnet offers to bring Chelsea back to her post so Minette goes alone to finish her ‘quest’. She sees a girl, Miriam Roland in pain. After giving her an apple to make her feel better, they both chat and become good friends. Minette learns that she has a weak body. But when she realizes she is late, Miriam offers to guide her there. Taking a shortcut through the alley, they see a kitten stuck outside a window on top. Minette decides to rescue it. The crates she stood on gave way but luckily Leicester was there to catch her (I guess he was following and keeping an eye on her as a worried ‘father’). Soon Miriam part ways with them. Leicester and Minette return to Oasis. She feels that she didn’t complete her quest since she wasn’t able to buy one of the ingredients. The rest didn’t mind till the Tortilla sisters show up to give her the missing ingredient as thanks from an owner of the cat she saved. Chelsea and Garnet finally arrive home after getting lost the whole day. So I see Garnet has hopeless direction too, eh? Classic case of blind leading the blind. Minette happily helps Nina out to make curry dinner.

Episode 6
Chelsea learns that a calamity will befall Ert’Aria and her mission is to find its reason and prevent the situation from worsening. Leicester and Minette meet Chelsea after her knight practice. Fabious is organizing a party at his place as appreciation for the Knights Templar. Chelsea notes she has to be on duty then to guard an Artifact but that is where Fabious requests Leicester to do the patrol on her behalf around the Sacred Temple. Later Chelsea takes Leicester and Nick around room with Artifacts to be protected. Among them the most valuable one, the Sacred Celestine sword. That night as the party begins, Chelsea appears in a stunning gown. It isn’t long before a Crystal Monster gatecrashes the party. While Garnet goes to get Leicester, the rest evacuate the place and try to contain the monster. However it is too fast. When Leicester arrives, he concludes that the monster attacks objects emitting bright lights and uses himself as bait to draw out the monster before Chelsea delivers the finishing move. Chelsea had earlier on drank a little too much and tires out from exhaustion so Leicester carries her back to the clan house. She starts talking funny (“Nyuu”?) and acting funny (stripping her clothes). I’m sure she enjoyed herself very much. All she needs is a goodnight rest. Goodnight, Chelsea.

Episode 7
Nagan requests Oasis to investigate the sky. Apparently the meteor shower is still going on when it is supposed to occur only once in 7 years and strange occurrences like the Crystal Monsters have been taking place. Agnes guides the gang through the forest to Altoise’s research lab in hopes to get some answers. But the forest is laden with traps set by the Maitresse as they have to carefully navigate the puzzle or else they’ll return back to square one (I thought the numbers chart Agnes was holding looked somewhat like Sudoku). They successfully reach Altoise’s cabin but she isn’t around. Agnes tells the gang this is where Minette is born though the latter has fuzzy memories about the place. Altoise brought Minette to life but due to insufficient Ale, she went back to ‘sleep’. In that short period, Agnes manages to befriend her. Everyone soon helps to find clues. Minette notices a shiny object underneath the house and crawls towards a statue with a pearl. She brings it back to Leicester and a series of events lead them to unlock a letter from Altoise. She is currently in a place known as Waterwheels of Heaven (there is an Artifact there that is able to circulate Ale). They hear Nick’s voice outside. He is being confronted by an automaton girl, Avril. She is here to take Minette’s core. The Oasis members cooperate to protect Minette but Avril is too strong and swift for them to handle. Avril backs down upon hearing orders from her master, Aberdeen. Seems Agnes knows him as he is her brother. Though he asserts that he only needs Minette’s core, he and Avril withdraw for now.

Episode 8
The gang thinks that somebody has to be with Minette as precaution during the Harvest Festival. Since everyone has their own duties, they suggest the Tortilla sisters to help out. Salsa and Ritos accompany Minette through the town as they do some advertising in swimsuits (even attracting animals?!). They let Agnes join in with her puppet acrobatic stuns before helping out Chelsea serving customers. After Agnes takes Minette go shopping, Salsa and Ritos follow Chelsea to the Artifact displays. Salsa once again falls for the pranks that the Artifacts she touched are cursed. Of course not. The Tortilla sisters later meet Leicester as they exchange items for the fireworks display. Ritos shows that though she always have fun tormenting her sister, she isn’t totally bad-hearted as she has Salsa to accompany Leicester back to Oasis. As everyone prepares to get ready to watch the fireworks, Salsa remembers her sister and decides to go back to her and prepare for the fireworks. I guess with the wasted chance and effort, that means Salsa has forgo her right to be with Leicester and allow herself to be subjected to Ritos’ taunting again. Yeah, she bluffs her for wanting to destroy the town with her fireworks (Salsa panicky as usual) but of course the only thing happening was the beautiful display.

Episode 9
Nagan continues to discuss with Oasis Clan about the strange happenings of the meteor shower. He thinks Altoise has also noticed this and taken action. Unfortunately the Waterwheel of Heaven’s location is still a mystery and they’re still continuing to search for it. Later Leicester accompanies Minette and Miriam on their day out. They pass but Tortilla Company as Ritos invites them in for tea before going back to Oasis. Carina and Agnes are doing their research but do not come up with anything conclusive. Suddenly as the bell rings, Miriam experiences pain in her chest and collapses. Agnes came back just in time to explain Miriam is an automaton like Minette. However she was a human long before but turned into one via a dragon’s technology due to her illness (she was believed to not live long). Though she is ‘cured’ from her illness, operating an automaton requires large amount of Ale. Due to the inconsistent meteor shower, somehow the Ale lost its balance. Thus to maintain its stability, Minette’s core which is Anima Pearl is needed and the reason why Aberdeen has his eyes on it. If Miriam’s condition is prolonged, she will cease to function. It’s an either or situation and Minette doesn’t like one bit of it. That night, Aberdeen and Avril break into the room to retrieve Miriam.

Episode 10
Miriam comes to and learns that Minette’s core is important for her survival. She doesn’t want something like that if it sacrifices her friend’s life. Minette just smiled and say to meet again. Chelsea has requested her Knights Templar to search for Aberdeen while the Tortilla sisters offer to take care of the abnormal Ale. Minette spends time with some of the Oasis members and learn their feelings on the situation. Salsa and Ritos journey to that closed mine again to investigate a large flowing Ale power. Minette couldn’t sleep that night so she goes to the rooftop of the cathedral. She meets Shelley as she offers her advice such as considering the views and feelings from all perspective before making her decision. Teary Minette laments her current situation. She loves everyone so much and wants to be with everybody together. After crying in Shelley’s bosoms, Minette has made her decision. Leicester finishes his work and notices Minette’s bell hanging outside her door. Fearing the worse, he enters to find her missing. Then he starts getting frantic and rushes out to search for her. Minette sees Aberdeen and follows him.

Episode 11
Minette volunteers to transfer her core to Miriam as Aberdeen starts the process. As the Oasis members run around town to search for Minette, Carina uses Montecchia to track Aberdeen (they should’ve done this in the first place). Leicester hitches a ride with Carina to the outskirts of the town. However Avril is defending the place and will not allow the duo to get an inch closer. Carina becomes her opponent so Leicester could go ahead. Since Carina can match Avril’s power and speed, Avril makes it top priority to destroy her. Leicester arrives outside the house and sees Aberdeen. He understands his actions of doing so but he wants him to put himself in his shoes too. As the guys fight, Minette rushes out to her papa. Leicester says it is for his daughter’s sake that he is willing to put his life on the line. He mentions that he is not here to just save Minette and Miriam, but also Aberdeen and Avril. Thus he will defeat him. Leicester pulls off a flashy (literally) move that could almost kill them both but thankfully they’re still breathing. Carina and Avril stop their match to rush back to the guys. Leicester continues his fatherly talk with Minette. Something about he is selfish and greedy and will do what it takes to get what he wants. He wants everyone to be together. He is sure that everyone else shares this same selfishness and says it is alright for Minette to be so too. Miriam then comes out and reiterates her similar wish and that she doesn’t want to die yet. In the end, Aberdeen agrees to cooperate with Oasis to find a method to cure her. Their joyful reunion is cut short when Garnet says that they need to head back as something major has happened. Turns out the Tortilla sisters have returned and relate their experience how the light from the mountain exploded towards the sky and caused Crystal Monster to rampage and attack the locals. Thinking that must be the counter-flow of the Ale from the Waterwheel of Heaven, the thing that stabilizes Ale in the world has become abnormal and causing an increase in the rampage of Crystal Monsters. Leicester concludes that if the Waterwheel of Heaven is causing Miriam’s core to behave unusually, then getting rid of it would return her back to normal. Everyone prepares to journey to the Waterwheel of Heaven.

Episode 12
Aberdeen and Avril want the Oasis members to head up the Waterwheel of Heaven first as they plan to take care of the rampaging Crystal Monsters from advancing. Why do they all look so cute? Just imagine Pokemon going wild… It’s not just here. Just about everywhere, cute Crystal Monsters are on the offensive. The Knights Templar along with the Tortilla sisters defend the island as we get to see Fabious strut his martial arts skill. The Oasis members climb the tower. I’m not sure if they ever thought of flying up but it seems forever running up the flight of stairs (it took them all day). But good thing nobody seems exhausted after reaching the top. They see Altoise embedded inside a large Crystal. Agnes calls out to her mom. Seems she is using her body as a vessel to control the flow of Ale and creating a large amount of Crystal Monsters to preserve it. Though they can fix it by repair but the Artifact is an ancient lost technology so one mistake would mean total destruction and everything would be lost forever. Well, it isn’t impossible though the success rate isn’t even 1%. Better than nothing, right? So if a Maitresse like her can’t repair it, how can someone like them will? Of course they can! Firstly, they don’t like this idea of sacrificing friends for the better future. Secondly, this is how Oasis does things. Thirdly, they are the heroes. They can’t fail even if the odds are stacked against them. I hope. Altoise agrees to leave the reparation in their hands but at that moment, she will be incapable to help and the powerful Ale will attack them. As Leicester and Minette go repair the puzzle Artifact, the other girls keep the attacking monsters at bay. With everyone’s feeling connected, Chelsea manage even to summon Celestine and do some serious butt kicking. In the end, Leicester successfully repairs the Artifact. See, what did I tell you? Yes, we can! Minette meets Altoise in a suspended-like space-time dimension. Minette is happy to have met everyone. Altoise emerges out from the Crystal as Agnes emotionally goes to hug her. With the stabilization of the Ale, all the Crystal Monsters return back to their cute docile form. Everyone returns back to Ert’Aria and resume their normal lives as Minette and Miriam continue to be good friends. All’s well, ends well.

Mixed Blessings…
I guess everything here is rather okay for this series. For a fantasy-like anime, there isn’t any real antagonist or rotten baddie here. Firstly, the Crystal Monsters are too cute to be seen as any threat to anybody. I felt that they don’t pose any serious danger to anybody. Even if they attack and get whacked, you’ll somehow feel assured that nobody gets injured. Besides, hitting those cute little things some may say animal abuse, but to me it seemed a little comical. I mean, can you picture hammering all your teddy bears in a row? As for Aberdeen and Avril, they are driven by their strong desire to protect and save Miriam. Anybody in their shoes would have done the same. They just look unfriendly, that’s all. Finally Altoise’s reason to protect the Ale that flows through the world is a noble one even though her actions put a lot of risk and danger to the people living below. But then again, it’s back to those reasons why the Crystal Monsters don’t seem so threatening.

So a happy ending that eventually has everyone able to be together to enjoy more happy moments. With Aberdeen and Avril by their side now, Oasis will be a stronger clan. I’m not sure if they have any intentions to join because Minette did mention that she hopes they will join the clan after everything is over. Overall, though the characters are interesting, they aren’t that ‘colourful’ enough to be uniquely unique. Get what I’m saying? Basically everyone is the same at the end as when they started. Like Chelsea still gets lost and Ritos enjoying playing pranks to helpless Salsa. Other characters like Nick and Garnet are there just because they are there and I felt they do not make much impact aside the fact that they are being part of Oasis. Even if this series is meant to showcase Leicester and Minette’s bond as father-daughter, I don’t really feel the intensity of it. Sure, Minette learns about the valuable thing called friendship and love, but the way her character is seems that she is naturally a good, kind and helpful girl so there isn’t any ‘big lesson’ to go through and learn from it other than the dilemma of putting her life on the line to save her friend first. Even so, I don’t really feel tense or worried. Yeah, maybe she’s too cute even when she’s anxious and troubled.

The far most amusing characters are still Salsa and Ritos. They are my motivation to watch this series even if I don’t really care about the plot or the fanservice (really?). In every episode, Ritos never fails to make fun out of her poor sister. She is literally quick in twisting her words and turning the situation around to make it so that Salsa takes the blame or seen as the villain, if not the idiot. It doesn’t help since Salsa is rather gullible and I don’t think she ever learns. That is what makes those 2 worth watching. Maybe these 2 should have their own spin-off series. I’ll never tire of watching them in their antics. Sorry Salsa. I know that you’re bearing the painful end of it all but take heart that it is for my amusement :). You’ll run riot with them, guaranteed.

I guess the pacing of the story is rather okay. The first half of the series seems to focus on some of the girls and make it in a way they have their turn and some screen time with Leicester before the final climax. So in the end, does it feel like a harem? Somehow that question in every harem series “Which girl would he choose to be?” seems lost halfway as the focus shifts to the problem dealing with Miriam and the inconsistent flow of Ale in the world. Just like the fanservice part. Some fanservice moments here and there in the first half like Minette temporarily losing her skirt while saving the cat, Ritos waking up totally naked except for a towel clad around her in the Laschutatto forest and the naked embrace of Agnes and Leicester that nearly had them caught. Then when the culmination of the story takes place, you don’t see any more of those. I’m not sure if the mid-intermission eye candy is for fanservice purpose as we see the female characters in the series taking turns posing in a still picture.

Speaking of more fanservice, if you buy the DVD, there will be 6 short specials lasting around 2 minutes or so. They are bath time clips of the girls in the series. Ahem, ahem… Probably the best place if you want to see some tits… Even though there are no dialogue and speeches, I’m sure you would be distracted with the ladies taking their bath, rubbing their body clean or just lying around rather than the lively and upbeat background music. Since the characters are rendered using CG, they look a little different than their usual self in 2D but you can still recognize them. By their face of course not their boobs. I noticed that even this bath time specials come in 2 versions. One in 2D and the other in 3D. I’m not sure how the 3D one will look like (but I can take a guess) maybe because I don’t have any 3D specs with me. Trying to take the fanservice to a whole new level, eh? Something to look forward to? (Pun intended). Perhaps there were quite a number of girls in the series and due to the limited DVD format, not all of them will appear. I have only seen Carina, Minette, Agnes, Chelsea and Ritos and Salsa’s version. Hey, I watched out of curiosity, okay? So I thought the last special would be one of the other girls and was guessing is it going to be Nina, Avril, Miriam or even Shelley who will take the final spot. But nope. The last special includes none of them but instead all those who appeared in the previous specials to gather in one big bath scene. I guess the rest aren’t ‘good’ enough to make it to that scene.

For more fanservice, the OVA is just what you need as it is released back in April 2011. The OVA consists of short nonsensical takes of the characters in the series that mocks several genres. And yeah, more fanservice than you could ever imagine though it won’t be like every scene. It starts with a high school parody called Campanella Academy whereby Salsa, Ritos and Golem are the disciplinary committee members sensing the threat of the gradual increase in Leicester’s harem. Leicester is by the way, the student council vice president. Guess who are the other members who make up the student council body? They need to put a stop to the arrival of the new heroine and go to confront Minette and Miriam. They also meet Aberdeen and Avril who are delinquents (they sound livelier here). Minette and Avril talk about how Leicester ‘saved’ them while Aberdeen visualizes a confrontation with him (and lost – setting some BL flag). Then the school director Shelley tells them that their battle has just begin and go forth before all the girls in the city become her son’s grand harem. And that’s it. The rest of the short takes include Minette’s introduction of several hotspring and its benefits (tits galore!); a Campanella movie called Auto Mata Golem which is a screwed up mix of Chinese kung-fu, bathroom horror (ala Psycho), phantom thief (Cat’s Eye parody) with some outer space mecha parody; A bathroom murder mystery with the girls of Oasis rushing in to find unconscious Leicester. They get horny ideas to rub his back and to see his ‘little buddy’ by taking off his loincloth. When they do so, they scream with horror and rush out just when Leicester regains consciousness. The second time, they see Salsa knocked out on the floor and Ritos taking a bath. Seems they’re here to pay a ‘night visit’ to Leicester. Then everyone gets this horny idea to go ‘visit’ Leicester while he’s asleep. Agnes gets flustered when a real scene of her naked with Leicester appears and tries to get it out of everyone’s mind. In the end, the Tortilla sisters just leave. The third time round, the see Nick lying on the floor but no cause for alarm because they walk away calmly and just let him be; A ‘Find Wally’ version called Find Chelsea in which viewers have 10 seconds to find her as the picture zooms in. The last one is tricky because it shows the whole island! How the heck will we know she’s there?!; The Yakyuken supposedly some random character selection in which he/she will do rock-scissors-paper with the audience and if the viewers win, the girl will give us a topless fanservice pose. If not, it’ll be substituted with a guy…

Fortune Sentai Campanellan is a parody of the sentai genre with the Tortilla sisters holding Leicester as hostage for world domination. The other girls arrive to save the day as they transform into their own respective colours. It gets out of hand when other characters arrive and transform, screwing up the colour theme; A Day In Life Of Golem sees Agnes and Tango spying on Golem doing several household chores. Agnes gets this weird idea that there is someone piloting Golem and fantasizes the possible guys in the series inside it. Why is Agnes face like a pervert? Why is her breathing so hard? That night as Ritos is to inspect Golem, she makes Salsa do housewife chores. Agnes is waiting in baited breath but to her disappointment, sees multiple mini Golems inside working out. Later Ritos teases Salsa about Leicester’s outer coat she secretly keeps in the roof. Finally in Leicester Becomes A Doll, as the name suggests, he becomes one as part of Altoise and Shelley’s pranks. Unable to move, every Oasis girl that sees the cute Leicester doll either subjects him to boobs smothering, fanservice, dress changing and worse of all, violation (can you believe Chelsea did this?!). Lastly when Minette takes the doll with her to sleep, the spell wears out in the middle of the night and Leicester returns to his normal size in Minette’s bed. Naked. It’s a good thing she’s still asleep. The next morning, everyone is puzzled where the doll may have disappeared to and wonders where Leicester has been but he can’t say. The mid-intermission for the OVA is total fanservice. At least for the girls’ part (topless nudity, you get the picture) and occurs very frequently between the short takes. Even the guys have their own poses and shots. Are they GAR enough for you? Show us those abs!

I won’t say that the drawing and art is groundbreaking but I feel that the shading of the characters is somewhat a little light. I also like some of the character designs. For instance, I like Leicester’s weapon that doubles up as a sword and a gun. Interesting. Too bad he doesn’t use it as often. Hey, don’t use violence unless really necessary. Unlike in many fantasy RPG animes, we don’t often see any monster or dragon slaying (okay, maybe just on 1 occasion) and powering up or the likes. I suppose they’re trying to stress on the interaction of the characters? The opening theme by Aki Misato, Shiawase Wa Yori Tsuki Takaku sounds like your typical upbeat anime song suitable for this genre. The first ending theme albeit is at a more moderate pace, Mirai Kaikisen by Miyuki Hashimoto. The second theme, AMELIA is all in English though at some parts I felt it was like Engrish… Perhaps it is because it was sung by Yuko Goto, who also did the voice of Avril.

For those who’d love a little short adventure and don’t mind the few fanservice, this series should be okay to those also seeking for a little laughs (you know which pair of sisters I’m talking about, right?) to pass the time by. It still bugs me about what the blessings of Campanella is. Not that important, I guess but as I did a little research, Campanella means little bell in Italian so perhaps the Oasis people got their blessing when Minette came into their lives? So if a little girl really comes up to me proclaiming that I am her father, hell I’ll be thinking when I screwed up big time.

La Corda D’oro

July 29, 2011

What are the things that are good for the soul? Chicken soup? That’s when you are sick. Chocolates? Not unless you have a sweet tooth. Music? Well, that depends on your taste and in this case if you have any interest in classical music and anime, you might want to check out Kin-iro No Corda or better known as La Corda D’oro: Primo Passo. Like many other animes, I thought this was adapted from a manga but found out that it was adapted from a game intended to target female audiences. Female audiences? You know what this means? Yeah, music with love and drama and a way to attract girls to watch this means you have got to have lots of hot hunks and good looking bishonens, right? Right. You’ll find a lot of them here in this reverse harem series.

My only other classical music-themed anime was Nodame Cantabile and it wouldn’t be fair to say that both these animes are alike except by the fact that they feature classical music in its episodes. One obvious difference is that in this series, we have the presence of a fairy. Say what? Yup. You heard me right. Apparently the setting of how this school, Seisou Academy came to be was a kind man saved a little fairy boy and treated him well. To show his gratitude, he uses his magic to establish the man’s dream of a music school and hence the birth of Seisou Academy. So if you want classical music animes that are down-to-earth and slightly realistic, this isn’t the one. Go for Nodame instead.

Episode 1
Second year student Kahoko Hino is rushing at the start of the school term because she’s running late and she gets off with a bad start by bumping into a fairy named Lili. She isn’t dreaming. Unlike many girls who swoon over cute things, Hino isn’t and freaks out at this phenomenon. At least she’s normal. Worse, she’s the only one who could see Lili. It would be bad if other people caught her talking to herself. Lili takes great interest in Hino and gives her play a violin, in which Hino is very much reluctant. After all, she can’t play any music instruments. Fairies in this series as explained are tasked to spread the happiness of music but as years and decades pass by, fewer people could see their presence. Over the years, the number of people who could see them dwindled as time has changed. So if Hino can see him, it means she’s got a hidden talent in music, right? Maybe. Hino gets even freaked out when she tries to play the violin. Her body is moving on her own! It’s like as though she’s a pro! Well, Lili’s magic violin is just a prototype and the user has to be on the same wavelength if he/she wants to play it. Yup, Lili wants Hino to try her creation out like a guinea-pig. But how would he convince her? Just shed some crocodile tears, add in a little drama and don’t give her room to talk back or think deep. Yeah, Hino takes up the challenge. After all, it wouldn’t hurt to try. Seisou Academy is divided into 2 sections, the Music Department (students in white uniforms) and the General Ed Department (black colour). Hino falls in the latter category. At the start the term, the principal announces the participants of a concour. They include Len Tsukimori (obnoxious, proud and unfriendly violinist), Kazuki Hihara (lively and ‘noisy’ trumpeter), Azuma Yunoki (polite and gentle flutist), Keiichi Shimizu (sleepy cellist that also talks in a drowsy manner), Shouko Fuyuumi (shy introvert clarinet player) and Hino. Everyone else is from the Music Department so if a General Ed student gets selected, it either means she is one damn good player or there has to be some kind of mistake. Hino is hoping for the latter. Since Hino took up Lili’s challenge, she can’t back out now. But all she has to do is put in some effort and the magic violin will weave its way through producing astonishing music without anybody suspecting a thing. Being selected as a participant may sit well with some but there are others who are also jealous because like human nature, somebody else got chosen instead of me. Hino on her way meets a trio of b*tchy females berating Fuyuumi for getting selected. Hino steps in to stand up for her but gets into a mess because the b*tches now wants her to play a song to prove her worth.

Episode 2
Thankfully those b*tches are so called Bodyguards (I guess it’s another term for fan club) for Yunoki. So when the hot guy comes by, they back down but challenge her to play a piece at a later time at the school garden. Hino befriends Fuyuumi, Yunoki, Hihara and also the persistent journalist club member, Nami Amou. She also meets cutie Shimizu sleeping like an angel outside on the hill slope and then Tsukimori practising in the music room. She is impressed by his play but he scorns her. It’s easy to pass off Tsukimori as a jerk but this is just the start. You know about people when they hate each other at first and then eventually open up? Same case here. Just watch. Hino practises on the rooftop and her Ave Maria easily captures the heart of those in the distance. Later all participants are being called by Hiroto Kanazawa, the teacher who is reluctantly put in charge of the concours. He tells them about the selections of the concours. There will be 4 selections, each with its own theme that the participants must choose a piece and play based on it. They will be judged and ranked after their performance. The first selection is coming up and the theme is ‘opening up’. What do you think is going through Hino’s mind when she thought she now has to enter big tournaments, playing in front of big audiences that would easily scare the living daylights out of normal students. Luckily Hino receives support from Hihara, her classmates Nao Kobayashi and Mio Takato, and a fellow General Ed student, Ryoutarou Tsuchiura who is also a football club member. Then it’s the showpiece that Hino dreads and the Bodyguards anticipate (in hopes that she’ll screw up somehow). Hino plays fine at first an easy Gavotte piece but when she realizes it has attracted lots of spectators, she grows nervous, her hands shaking and paralyzed with fear.

Episode 3
Hihara comes to Hino’s rescue. His playful trumpet play eases her tension as they make a lovely duet, mesmerizing the crowd except the Bodyguards. I’m sure they would’ve called her cheating for taking on some assistance but when Yunoki-sama is around, anything will do. We need this guy around Hino more often for ‘protection’. Later after Hino seeks Kanazawa’s advice about the concours like researching on the other participants, Hino spots Tsukimori being cornered by a bunch of jealous guys. She splashes water from the flower vase on all of them to cool things down. I guess she took that too literally, huh? Then she accidentally tripped herself and cut her fingers from the broken vase. Tsukimori tells her to take better care of her fingers since they’re vital to play her violin. Also, Tsukimori and Tsuchiura do not get along with each other, trading sarcasm whenever possible. After school, Hino hears the sound of someone playing good piano and follows it to Minami Instruments shop. She is surprised to see Tsuchiura playing it and likewise, he too is shocked to see her. She wishes for him to be her accompanist but shoots her down immediately. He makes her promise not to tell anyone about this. Hino needs to find a piano accompanist for her first selection and though Yunoki can introduce her to one, the thought that it will be one of his Bodyguards just wouldn’t do so she turns his nice offer down. Luckily, a girl named Megumi Shouji comes to her rescue as she offers herself to be Hino’s accompanist. Hino is happy and relieved but why is it that Shouji has that conniving look on her face?

Episode 4
Hino is friendlier with Lili now and not as suspicious when she first met him as the fairy makes periodical visits to check u on Hino’s progress and offer more musical sheets for her practice. Great. Just what she needs. Tsuchiura helps Hino practice by being her temporary accompanist in the music room. Later she visits Minami Instruments and the owner shows a video of young Tsuchiura playing the piano. A prodigy or genius for his age if I should say. She also learns that Tsuchiura once entered a concour but after that, he became irrational and gave up piano. Hino is puzzled why he is wasting his talent when he is in the football club instead of taking up music. Later she continues to practise with Shouji though it didn’t last very long. Yeah, just over 2 hours. For a General Ed, that seems pretty long. In the evening, Hino seeking more practice finds a room to do so and sees Tsuchiura outside the window. She manages to persuade him to play a little song. Then she mentions about watching that video, in which upsets Tsuchiura. She’s trying to be nice to find out why he stopped playing the piano but he tells her to mind her own business and worry about herself instead since the concour is tomorrow. On her way home, Hino sees a guy, Shinobu Ousaki, captivating the crowd with his violin play at the park.

Episode 5
The first selection is here. Since Hino knows nothing about dressing up for the concour, Lili uses his magic to change her outfit like what the Fairy Godmother did to Cinderella. Only, Hino experienced different outfits like Chinese dress and a nun before coming to one that is acceptable. The hall is packed with students anticipating their performance. The concour starts with Shimizu going up first but his performance as noted by the judges is so textbook-like, then Hihara with his lively trumpet piece, then Fuyuumi (stiff and nervous) and Yunoki (charming all the girls more than ever). Hino’s turn is coming up but Shouji is nowhere to be seen. She rushes to find her and heard that it was her original plan to ditch and disqualify her. Her reason is of course jealousy. She thinks Hino isn’t taking music seriously and for reasons unknown got chosen to participate in the concours unlike those who have been slogging for years and never got a chance to shine. I know Hino sympathizes with her but would it be right to take it out on her? At this point? Just then, Tsukimori steps in and chides Shouji for not being serious in music because of her actions. This sends Shouji into shock as she runs away crying. Hino thinks she might have feelings for Tsukimori. Hino returns to the backstage and it is now her turn to play. She plans to go ahead without an accompanist. A few lines into her performance, the judge tells her to stop since she is without an accompanist. That is when Tsuchiura hops in to be her white knight. Everyone is charmed by the joyful manner of their Tristesse piece. Even Tsuchiura’s pals didn’t know he could play the piano this well. Finally it is Tsukimori’s turn as he puts up an electrifying violin performance. In the end, Tsukimori steals the show and ends up ranked first while Hino is dead last.

Episode 6
Well, don’t let the results get to your head or take it to heart. Due to Tsuchiura’s sudden amazing performance, he has been added to the list of the participants for the concour. Wait a minute. Like this also can? Come to think of it, I’m sure there are other good music students who want to enter this way too. Just that they need a chance to show themselves, right? What’s more, Tsuchiura from the General Ed, that has got to be an insult to some Music Department students. Anyway all the concour participants go on a training camp with Kanazawa supervising them. It will be at Fuyuumi’s villa since she has multiple sound-proof rooms for them to practice. What else to do hear but to practice, practice and more practice. They can also get some music CDs to listen due to the extensive collection. Hmm… Shimizu’s life revolves around music so it’s day in day out nothing but music. Wake up music, eat, sleep, music all over again. Sometimes I feel his like an unenergetic robot. Tsukimori and Tsuchiura are paired to sleep in the same room. As usual they don’t get along and demand Kanazawa to swap. So Yunoki gets to sleep with Tsukimori but sorry fan girls, no yaoi moments. Hino visits Hihara, Tsuchiura and Shimizu’s room to snack. Tsuchiura and Hihara argue to see who sleeps on the sofa. That leads to an accident whereby Hihara trips and falls on top of Hino on the bed. Hino gets embarrassed and leaves the room. Well, Hihara too. He learns that Tsuchiura has dated girls before. That statement made Hihara somewhat relieved though he himself is confused what that means. It means you have a crush on Hino. And that troubled look on Tsuchiura’s face also indicates the same thing. Hey, this is a reverse harem shoujo anime. That is to be expected. Next morning, Hihara apologizes to Hino and is back to his cheery self. She also holds no grudges but as usual it’s ruined when Tsukimori cold remarks about her being at the second selection for real.

Episode 7
The training camp continues. Kanazawa has Hino, Fuyuumi and Shimizu help him out for errands in town. This means the guys, heated-up food for lunch. Tsukimori shows that he isn’t perfect because he mistook the oven for stove and burns all their lunch so Tsuchiura has to go fry fried rice. During that, Tsuchiura learns Tsukimori’s mother is no other than the famous pianist, Misa Hamai whom he greatly looks up to. That night, Tsukimori is awakened by Hino’s violin in the garden. He also takes up his violin and plays a duet with her Ave Maria piece which resonates beautifully throughout the villa. On the day of their departure, Kanazawa reveals the theme for the second selection to be ‘something to believe in’. Back in school, Amou is pestering Tsukimori for an interview for his victory for the first selection. He tries to hide and escape from her persistence and ends up in the music room that Hino is practising in. He covers her mouth so as not to make a sound so that the pesky journalist would go look elsewhere. Not too happy with that ‘molestation’, Hino walks away but soon realized that his hands are much hotter than before. Hey, he’s a cold guy, remember? She rushes back to see him fainted next to the door. She is about to go call a doctor but unconsciously Tsukimori stops her and this time his head falls unconsciously on her shoulder. Hino has no choice but to sit there with him. What’s more, he has got a good grip on her hand.

Episode 8
By the time Hino wakes up, Tsukimori has left but he left her his coat as her blanket. She decides to visit his home to return it and on the way meets Tsuchiura and Hino so they too follow her to Tsuchiura’s large mansion. Though Tsukimori is much better now, they are fascinated with photos of Tsukimori when he was small and with his parents. Are they overstaying their welcome? Hino still hasn’t selected a piece for the second selection and becomes stressed. Noting her vast level difference with the rest especially with Tsukimori, she practises at any chance available, leaving no room and time to hang out with Nao and Mio. This upsets Nao that she has changed. A breakdown in their friendship becomes inevitable. Hino continues to practice though she is somewhat depressed. Then she accidentally breaks a music box, a birthday present from her friends, she sinks into further depression. Luckily Hihara was there to cheer her up by fixing the mechanism of her music box. Grateful Hino returns to her cheerful self and decides to use this music box’s Canon as her piece for the second selection. Then she and the other concour members help out in some survey for the entire school to gauge student’s reactions on the concour. With a few hot and cute guys, that won’t be a problem in attracting the girls, right? Though some students have nasty and demeaning comments about not interested and a certain General Ed student coming in last, Nao and Mio chide them for their stuck up attitude and unlike them a certain someone is trying their best. This means their friendship is patched up and Hino is back being friends with Nao and Mio. They apologize and will continue to support her in the second selection. Later Hino bumps into the same guys who were harassing Tsukimori in the earlier episodes. They badmouth him and even mock that she may have a crush on him (maybe?). Tsukimori was there to tell them to GTFO. Hino notes he has been acting strangely recently and wonders if it is the stressed of the concour. She steps on a landmine when she says could it be his parents are coming to see him for the second selection. Man, have you ever seen Tsukimori’s worried face like that?

Episode 9
While pondering that awkward situation and wondering how to greet Tsukimori in the future, Hino is also facing low morale since she thinks her stage performance isn’t good (what do you expect after getting last place). Tsuchiura suggests she perform in public to improve herself. Along the way, she bumps into Amou. The last person she wants to tell about her plans. Amou thinks she is shopping for a dress and when she spots Fuyuumi across the road, takes the girls to go on a shopping spree. Then returning to school, Hino this time spots Shimizu collapsed in the music room. First Tsukimori, now Shimizu? Thankfully, it was just his usual slumbering. Man, he can sure sleep anywhere. Later at the park, Hino meets the owner of Minami Instruments who her about a salon concert at the park hall and suggests she go watch it. She also meets Shimizu there as they watch the trio of famous ex-orchestra members perform. After that, they meet the trio and are persuaded to play her violin as a demo for the trio. Lovely as usual.

Episode 10
The second selection is underway. Before the concour starts, Tsukimori’s parents personally meet the participants backstage. This time to order of performance is based on their ranking position from the previous selection. Since Tsuchiura isn’t ranked, he goes up first and puts on a magnificent Chopin composition, followed by Hino who now has a permanent piano accompanist in the name of Manami Mori, then Hihara, Fuyuumi, Shimizu (being told by Kanazawa to walk slowly to stall for time. And he really did that! Lol!) and Yunoki. Way before Tsukimori’s turn, the rest realize he is missing and go search around the school. Actually he was cooling himself down in the dressing room when some guy knocked him out and locked him inside the closet. Hino senses something amiss because Tsukimori’s violin is left on the dressing table but the player is nowhere to be seen. Tsuchiura searching outside the hall overhears that Tsukimori’s rivals are the one that have locked him up so he gets strict with the jerks. He brings the culprit back to Kanazawa and hopes that he could do something to delay the performance but nothing could be done since if you’re talking about concours, elegance not only in performance and appearance matters but time as well. Yup, Tsukimori is very close to be disqualified. Hino hears Tsukimori’s voice from the closet and is going to get help to let him out but Tsukimori says that it is over for him which is good news for her because it means less one rival. However that isn’t Hino’s intention because she was looking forward so much to his performance. Yeah, don’t ever say things like that. This makes Tsukimori to barge out with Hino’s cooperation. By the time they rush back, everyone has left. Later alone in the hall, Hino and Hamai hear Tsukimori play his piece alone onstage.

Episode 11
The results are out. Newcomer Tsuchiura surprises the pack with first place while Hino takes second. Tsukimori of course is last place. Even with second place, Hino feels uncomfortable and not used to it all (remember, it’s her magic violin doing most of the job). When last place, not happy. Now second place also not happy. After a little girly celebration at Amou’s house with Fuyuumi, Hino meets Hihara in the streets and accompanies him and Yunoki to buy Hihara’s brother a birthday present and eventually got a cap. A flashback how Yunoki and Hihara first met when they were first year students at Seisou Academy. Though Hihara will continue his music studies after graduation, Yunoki will be abandoning it to continue and support his family business. Next day in school as Hino decides to practice more rather than immersing herself in depression, she finds Yunoki practising on the rooftop. Seems like the usual nice conversation you could have. When Hino thanks him and will do her best for the next selection, Yunoki reveals his true colours. He calls her annoying and puts on an intimidating over her. OMG! Say this can’t be true?! A gentleman and prince charming like Yunoki’s true self is a darker side? Truly shocking. Still waters run deep. He is a damn good actor putting up his polite manners and careful enough making sure nobody sees his other side.

Episode 12
This of course is a big shock for Hino after knowing Yunoki’s true character. So now, she has more needless thoughts on her mind. First the concours and now this, Yunoki’s dark side. He wants her to quit the concour. I’m sure Hino at this point is going to give up halfway even if he intimidates and mocks her. Yunoki dangerously flirts with Hino and poor girl may even think she could get raped any moment. Just like when Yunoki forces himself over Hino at the infirmary bed when she bruised her knee from falling down the stairs but holds himself back from doing anything regrettable. Eventually Hino can’t expose Yunoki’s true character because no one will believe her. Hot guy wins over amateur girl anytime. Another round of depression. But this time Hino can’t blame Yunoki for deceiving others because she herself is playing the same game with her magic violin. Later Hihara invites Hino and Yunoki to help out his orchestra club. Hino learns that Ousaki is an alumni helping out the club. The moment Yunoki steps in, all the girls glomp around him. What an unexpected surprise. Too popular. Oh, if they’d only know the truth. But would that stop them from admiring him? Then one of the orchestra students demonstrates her violin in front of Hino and wants her to comment but Hino just ran away. Ousaki catches up to Hino outside and though she still feels guilty and is nothing compared to everyone else as her participation itself is strange, he says that because of her, more General Ed students became interested in music. Then he puts up a violin demonstration to cheer her up.

Episode 13
So as not to wallow too much in her guilt, Hino continues to immerse herself in violin practice. However she is neglecting her mid-term exams so much so Lili confiscates the violin in order for her to concentrate on her exams. The real reason being is that her heart is troubled and he doesn’t want her to play with such feelings. And Hino is so attached to the violin than before, I’m thinking she might experience withdrawal symptoms if she doesn’t touch it any time soon. Besides, the theme for the third selection has already been announced: ‘Irreplaceable thing’. Hino searches for Lili in vain to return her violin but to no avail. While studying at the rooftop, she meets Hihara and learns how he got into playing trumpet (he was fascinated by the sound of a trumpet player he heard on the school rooftop during his middle school years and would never fail to turn up during recess to hear her play). Mio and Nao are fascinated that Hino is getting some help with her studies with Tsuchiura and think they too have something going on but all that is on Hino’s mind is that she misses her violin very much. So much so when she hears a violin play in the middle of the street, her hands start to play an air violin, much to the crowd’s amusement before she flees in embarrassment after realizing what she’s doing. Later, Hino goes visit a museum of stringed instruments with Shimizu to learn more about her violin. Then at a cafe, Shimizu notes how she loves the violin because of the way she performs with it (surprising her) and that he likes her performance though he doesn’t clearly know why (maybe he likes her too?). Next day, Hino calls out to Lili that she wants to play the violin not because of winning the concour but rather she loves playing it. Lili is convinced with her words that he has been waiting for her to say all this time and returns the violin. You can really see the relieved look on her face. Next day on the school rooftop, Hino isn’t happy that even after taking time off from violin and studying, she only scored 53 in her mid-terms. Well, just like any other thing, it’s always the daily practice that makes you good. Don’t expect overnight miracles. Then Yunoki comes up to her with that intimidating and teasing character of his. At least her composure with him is better now. But he shocks her by calling her first name (an indication of intimacy).

Episode 14
Hihara didn’t hear clearly but he jumped gun thinking that Yunoki and Hino are getting engaged! So eventually the rest of the other guys also find out but the truth is, Hino is just helping Yunoki out by being his fiancee. Yunoki’s family is very strict when it comes to tradition so like all his elder brothers, there are marriage interview candidates and the likes. One of them being Ayano is really persistent and is coming to see him today at his home. Without thinking, he told Ayano that he can’t marry her and already has someone he likes. You know who lah (even if he displays his darker side to Hino you can tell that he would eventually fall for her. He just doesn’t show it. He’s good at hiding, remember?). So yeah, all the other guys, Tsuchiura, Tsukimori, Hihara and Shimizu are let into the house and being filled in by Yunoki’s younger sister Miyabi. When Ayano comes by, she ‘interrogates’ Hino on which part she likes Yunoki. I’m sure she’s in a dilemma of what kind of answer to say. She wants Hino to let go her legal wife status?! She even gets bold with Yunoki but that guy kisses Hino on the forehead, shocking everyone. Then Yunoki’s very strict grandma returns home early. Everyone is forced into hiding but naive Ayano thinks she should go greet her. Grandma is not too happy to see a young unmarried girl (Ayano) taking advantage of the adult’s absence to do something that may lead to misunderstanding. Nobody dared speak against her. as she reminds Yunoki he has a duty to uphold the family’s name. I can see why Yunoki is always putting up a polite facade. Now it’s Hino’s turn to burst out to tell the true side of the story, that her engagement with Yunoki is just an act and not to treat them lightly since Yunoki is popular in school and takes the concours seriously. Anyway grandma has them all leave since it is late. Hino and Ayano apologize to each other before leaving. Ayano feels she should try her best while Yunoki advises her to experience various encounters and improve herself. Hino and Yunoki had a private chat. She wonders which side of him is real because it must be very hurting to deceive others (right back at her). Yunoki thanks her but she isn’t sure if she was teasing him. Hino, Tsuchiura and Tsukimori are leaving via train station whereby they meet Tsuchiura’s ex-girlfriend, Mizue Sakimoto. She blunders when she thinks Tsuchiura or Tsukimori are Hino’s boyfriend, causing all of them to blush and feel uneasy.

Episode 15
Hino and the girls are discussing about the hot guys in the concour. Hmm… Is that how they look in the eyes of others? Not that Hino would know if she has feelings for any of them. The guys are outside eavesdropping not because they wanted to, but rather they can’t find an appropriate time to enter. The next day Hino goes to the park to practice but sees Hihara playing basketball with his brother and friends. She practises while the guys play. But her heart is stirred because each time she thinks of Yunoki’s dual personality and Sakimoto’s misconception, she hits the wrong note and sends the guys off their pace. Soon Hihara’s brother and pals decide to leave Hihara with Hino alone, giving excuse that they remembered to do something. She notes his brother is wearing the cap they picked out for his birthday. Then they pass by an outdoor cafe and see Tsuchiura and Sakimoto drinking together and join them. So I guess this is the third time Sakimoto mistakes Hihara as Hino’s boyfriend, though she did mention they look good together. Then she suggests the guys challenge each other on a one-to-one basketball match. During that, Sakimoto reveals how she was the one who dumped Tsuchiura mainly because he looked so much happier when he was with his guy friends and the thought of him calling her by her first name never materialized. She may just be crazy in the concept of being in love. Hihara then injures himself though it isn’t anything serious. Sakimoto has Tsuchiura escort her home and leaves the other two alone. After Hino puts a band aid on Hihara’s wound, he wonders if he could call her by her first name. She approves but couldn’t bring herself to call Hihara’s first name. At that moment, Hihara realizes he has fallen in love with her.

Episode 16
Ousaki requests the concour members’ help to perform for some kids at school. Seems only Hino, Tsukimori, Hihara and Shimizu are available. While Hihara is tasked to do other errands, the string quartet puts up a performance in front of the young ones. Hino has a hard time since has never heard this piece before. The children can’t tell that Hino is lagging behind them which provide cover for Tsukimori and Shimizu to help her recover her pace. After their performance, they teach the kids on the basics of playing the violin, etc. At the end when they’re cleaning up, Hino spots a violin in a room, picks it up and play. It sounds horrible since it isn’t her magic one. To Hino’s horror, Tsukimori heard it and he wants Hino to explain the meaning of that awful sound. Hino is ‘saved’ when Hihara barges in to help but Hino runs away and sits dejectedly on a park swing, thinking that her lie and deceit is exposed. She even asks the kids if they hate liars. Of course they do. Hihara saw her crying too. Because of that, Hino sinks into depression and sharp Tsuchiura notices this though she won’t tell him. He suspects Tsukimori is responsible for this because she excuses herself when Tsukimori comes into the picture. Later Hino is furiously practising her violin to forget about it when Tsukimori comes in to stop her as it will damage the violin. Though he doesn’t force her to answer, he concludes that there is a possibility that she could only play that one. However it doesn’t matter to him because the most important is one’s attitude towards music and in this case since Hino is like that, he tells her straight that he can’t accept her.

Episode 17
Hino weighs heavily what Tsukimori has said. Even Yunoki doesn’t feel like tormenting her. She is going to practice further but on the rooftop but hears Tsukimori doing so. She changes her mind and rushes back down, passing by Tsuchiura and Hihara. Tsuchiura goes to ask Tsukimori what happened but he seems indifferent so much so a fight nearly started. Tsukimori says that he didn’t see Hino coming here and questions why Tsuchiura gets so emotional when Hino is involved. Before you know it, the third selection concour is here. Hino’s trouble is also deeply affecting the performance of Hihara (there were lots of mistakes in his performance), Shimizu (his mind is somewhere else), Tsuchiura and Tsukimori. It wasn’t their usual performance although Fuyuumi is rather calm and better than usual. It is Hino’s turn and after seeing high level performances from Tsuchiura and Tsukimori so she gets worried if she’ll ever match their level. During her turn, she plays too hard on the strings and wishes for her magic violin to make her put up a good performance so much so in the end, 3 of the strings snapped.

Episode 18
Shocked at what has happened, Hino runs off the stage. Yunoki is the last to perform and even though he said he will not be affected by Hino like everyone else, in a way, he too is affected because he played too seriously. The results of the third selection are announced. Yunoki takes first place ahead of Tsukimori and Tsuchiura while Hino drops back to last. Just did a boomerang, eh? In the dressing room, Hino is obviously very depressed. Lili explains how the violin mirrors her heart. He offers to fix it up with his magic but it seems he himself is surprised the violin remains broken as it is. What will she do now? There isn’t a spare magic violin, isn’t there? Yunoki on his ride home remembers how he once played and excelled in piano, even having potential to surpass his brothers. But his strict grandma told him his brothers are already playing it (after all in strict family tradition, the younger brother isn’t allowed to get better than the older one as he is to only support). He took up the flute after listening to his grandpa’s advice. When Yunoki reaches home, grandma tells him that she has arranged for him to study in London as soon as possible. What about his concours? Well, to her music is only a hobby. Does Yunoki have any say in this from the beginning? Vetoed. Elsewhere, Hamai wishes for Tsukimori to perform in a charity concert with her but he turns her down citing he isn’t at her level yet. Hino returns life prior to the concours, without her violin. Tsuchiura notices she isn’t practising anymore and questions her but Hino says she is thinking of quitting the concours. No matter how much he shakes her, he just can’t get her to change her mind. After all, it’s none of his business. Tsuchiura then passes by his football club in action. One of the members wants him to fill in for an injured guy for the prefectural tournament. However the club president-cum-captain tells him to make a choice: Either to play the piano and give up football or give up piano for football. He doesn’t want somebody who is half-hearted and can’t even decide.

Episode 19
Looks like another withdrawal is on the cards because Yunoki informs Kanazawa about his situation to transfer to London. While Hino ponders if this is her chance to withdraw from the concour so that she doesn’t have to play the violin again, Yunoki comes by to tell her about his transfer. Soon everyone gets wind about Yunoki’s transfer and you know what this means to all his fan girls. How can they live without him? What is Seisou Academy without him? Sighs… Hihara confirms this from Yunoki himself the next day and thinks when they stopped telling each other the truth and Hino doesn’t smile anymore. Meanwhile Shimizu is looking for a certain sound (Hino’s) and bumps into Tsukimori practising in the music room. They chat as Shimizu expresses his desire to hear Hino’s sound like the time it resonated so beautiful when Hino and Tsukimori played a duet of Ave Maria at the training camp. Hino sees Kanazawa and tells her intention to quit but he tells her if she would find something new. Lili confirms the magic violin can’t be fixed anymore since its strings broke, magic from it was released and now it has become a normal violin. Hino notes that it will be better this way since she won’t be deceiving people anymore. After Tsukimori overhears from Hihara that Hino is quitting, he confronts her and asks her if she is okay with that. Then he tells of his past how he was bullied and they almost broke his fingers. The scariest part wasn’t the bullies but the thought of never being able to play a violin again. Can she live with the fact without playing the violin again? Though she replies that she can, her tears tell a different answer. He notes that her tears are her true feelings but she denies it and runs off.

Episode 20
Hino returns the broken violin to Lili but the funny part was Lili was trying hard to escape from a cat who either wants to eat him or play with him. I just thought why didn’t he fly upwards? Then Fuyuumi gets disheartened to learn about Hino’s withdrawal because she looks up to her and without her, she’s at a lost. Even if Hino is prepared to go back to her life, those pre-violin days, Nao and Mio say they can’t because they came to love her playing. So everyone is so depressed about the withdrawals that the fourth and final selection doesn’t seem that important now. Hino still has that mindset that she doesn’t have the right to play the violin bla bla bla, but everyone wants to hear her play yada, yada, yada. I guess this girl needs more convincing so it’s Ousaki’s turn to weave his magic words to her. He takes her to the amusement park and in the Ferris wheel, tells her about looking at the world from a different perspective. Instead of thinking about our little existence, he looks at it as how big and wide the world is. She doesn’t need to force and answer now because eventually that answer will come to her naturally. This confirms Hino’s feelings that indeed she wants to continue playing the violin, even if it is one without magic. All the more after hearing Tsukimori’s violin practice which brings back memories of all the good times she had playing it. Asking Lili if she could play the violin again, he is happy that she doesn’t hate the violin and although she can fix the strings and all she could have is a normal violin, he notes that there is a bond between Hino and her violin that can’t be taken away: Corda, the Italian word for chord which could also mean bond.

Episode 21
Hino requests Tsukimori to help fix her violin strings. He takes her out of town to a guy who fixes and services violin for his family, Nakata. Hino learns about the labels in a violin that can tell of its creator but of course hers doesn’t have any as it is from Lili. Thankfully Hino’s violin body doesn’t have any serious damage. Tsukimori tests a violin to check its ‘fitness’. Hino and Tsukimori return to Minami Instruments to buy strings and with Tsuchiura’s help, they tune her violin. Sounds horrible but she is resolved to start from scratch. In no time, she resumes her violin practice in school and even if it goes out of tune many times, the concour members are glad to hear Hino’s sound because it is a sign that she is back. With that, everyone gets their spirit and self-confidence back. With Hino returning, Tsuchiura too must make a decision. He hands his resignation from the football club to the captain but the latter tears it away. He only wanted to see his resolve and this proves it so he tells him to go all out and win. Later Tsuchiura talks to Hino at the concert hall. He tells her about how he once entered a junior concour. Except himself, everyone else was from high school. Tsuchiura dazzled the crowd with his finger work, outshining everyone and was confident he could win. But some other guy won and he only received a special prize for participation. Feeling the cruel injustice, ever since that day, he stopped playing in public till the day he stepped in as Hino’s accompanist. That was when he felt the lonely music inside him broadened and because of her, he was able to confront and overcome it. Hino continues to practice and I guess it’s been a long time since the Bodyguards come by to insult her horrible rendition. You could have guessed by now the only way to make them back down. Yup, herald Yunoki. So after they take their leave, Yunoki reverts to his true dark self as he notes how her music has changed but someone else (himself) has yet to change.

Episode 22
Hino perseveres in her practice. The concour members overhear how other students are badmouthing Hino about her awful sound. I know that what they say is nasty but the thing that bugged me was the fact that Hino kept practising outside on the rooftop. This means everyone throughout the school can hear her, right? I mean, why not at least take her practice to one of the music rooms where it is sound proof? She wants the world to hear her cacophony? Can she play well enough before the concour? Well, she only has to play 1 song, right? So all she needs to do is just practice that piece for now. Hihara still hasn’t snap out from his depression mood yet. He is down because he feels he will be the only third year representative after Yunoki leaves for London. Kanazawa advises him to make his own music instead. Hino hears Hihara practising his trumpet and thinks he is the one Yunoki was referring to. Hihara tells Hino his story whereby he was torn between the track club (he likes running) and playing the trumpet and his friend wasn’t happy about his indecisiveness. Eventually he quit the track club and joined the brass brand though his friend continued to run. Hihara supported him by playing his trumpet during his track meet. Though his friend noted he played quite badly, it gave him enough strength to run and end up in second place. Thus Hihara plays a piece for Hino as further encouragement to her. Hino continues to practice late till Kanazawa had to remind her that it’s closing time. He admires her ability to regain back on her feet unlike him as we see short snippets of his past (getting drunk? Girlfriend leaving him?). As Hino leaves school, Yunoki comes by and drags her into his limo (the Bodyguards watching in envy!). He takes her to dinner at a posh restaurant. This is supposedly Yunoki’s ‘last dinner’ in Japan before flying off. He asks if she intends on continuing to play the violin, in which she answers yes and will do her best in the final selection. When she asks him the same thing, he didn’t answer so Hino expresses that she would like him to continue playing his music and not quit (maybe deep down in her heart she wants to be by his side? Nah…). So it has been fun while it lasted because the very next day, Yunoki departs to London. Will he ever return? Time will only tell.

Episode 23
The theme for the final selection as revealed is ‘setting free’. Yunoki’s absence is really affecting all the fan girls. Their gloomy aura is enough to kill. As usual Hino continues to scar the academy with her amateur play. Oops I mean, practice hard. Hehehe… Tsukimori even gives some tips on how to hold and position her violin correctly. After practice, Hino spots a lost camera negatives and returns it to Amou. She is grateful and while putting it away in a cupboard, a box from the top topples down. They see a cassette and play it only to hear a voice of a singing tenor. All of a sudden, Kanazawa rushes into the room (God knows from where) and confiscates the tape, making them not to reveal this to anyone. You might have guessed that he is the voice in that tape (that guy was one a tenor? Sure doesn’t look like it). Tsukimori tells Hamai that he has changed his mind and would like to take up her offer to perform a duet at the charity concert because he has someone he wants a certain person to listen to his play. Hihara and Tsukimori accidentally meet outside Minami Instruments and Tsuchiura spots them (just finish another round of practice). The owner sees Tsukimori and felt he has seen him somewhere before. Then he realized he did. He invites them all in (including Hino) to watch a video tape of young Tsukimori in a violin performance. This was the performance that spurred Tsuchiura to join a concour. Tsukimori isn’t pleased that he has a record of that. I’m sure everyone else finds him cute. Then the owner decides to show videos of Tsuchiura. It’s his turn to protest so it’s ‘revenge’ time for Tsukimori. On their way home, the meet Ousaki and several children handing out flyers for a volunteer concert. The kids are disheartened that no one is taking them. Tsuchiura and Hihara play a duet in order to liven up the mood and attract the people’s attention. Lastly as Tsuchiura walks Hino back, he mentions some violinist composer inspired another pianist to play and hints that she could be his inspiration in this same manner. Hino starts blushing.

Episode 24
Tsukimori gives Hino tickets to the charity concert. While Amou takes pictures of Fuyuumi for her report, Hino confirms that Kanazawa was the voice in the tape (he was trying to sing). But she doesn’t want to bug him anymore after seeing his sad face so she excuses herself. Later Hihara treats Hino to some cake for working hard and later as she is practising, Shimizu comes by to tell her that she isn’t playing according to her music sheet: The music sheet in her heart. He also thanks her because of her, he too has found his own music sheet in his heart. Hino arrives early for the charity concert and meets Tsukimori at the beach feeling the calming wind. As she is the pick up a fragile seashell, he stops her and reminds her to be careful of not injuring her fingers. He notes Hino’s music from the heart makes her music stand out. In the concert hall, Hino is surprised to see her concour pals also being invited to the concert but they were given tickets by Hamai herself and are seated on a different row behind her (what does this tell you?). The performance begins with Hamai on the piano and several other guests performing on stage before Tsukimori’s electrifying finale. Everyone goes backstage to thank Hamai for a wonderful performance and she in turn thanks them for coming and do their best in the final selection. On the way home, Hino says that she is going to play a piece that is just her and hugs Fuyuumi who cheers her on, prompting Hihara to be quite alerted (because he wanted to do that first). Then ignoring the guys, the girls cross the street to have cake. Sorry guys. Looks like she isn’t interested in anything deeper with you guys.

Episode 25
The final selection is today. Hino is running late to school because she overslept (as usual). She bumps into a familiar face on the way. Why, it’s Yunoki! Is this a dream? Not. Yeah, his insults are still there. Apparently he is back for the concour and just went to London to cancel his transfer. Are we supposed to feel relieved? Well, everybody is since it won’t be a really feel good ending if everyone is not around. However disaster strikes Hino again because Mori has injured her hand in a bicycle accident and can’t be her accompanist. Furthermore, Hino is the first one up. Tsuchiura offers to be her replacement but surprisingly it is Shouji who steps in and this time she has truly repented and wants to atone for her mistakes (she tried quitting piano but after seeing Hino’s persistence, she persevere to carry on). Since Hino and Shouji need time to practice, the rest agree on the change of performance order. So Yunoki goes up first, thrilling all the fan girls and reviving them back to life, giving them the meaning of their pitiful existence :p. This is followed by Hihara, Fuyuumi, Shimizu, Tsukimori and Tsuchiura. Each time they go on stage, Hino narrates the change and good that they have brought to her and made her a better person. Like Yunoki made her forgive herself for deceiving, Hihara the first who made her enjoy music, Fuyuumi who isn’t as nervous as before, Shimizu’s seriousness in music and learned a lot from him, Tsukimori for showing her the beauty of the violin, and Tsuchiura for always helping and looking out for her. Finally it’s Hino’s turn as she goes on stage in her school uniform simply because she is going to perform as she is. While she amazes the crowd with her play, she thinks back all the wonderful and painful encounters and memories she had with the violin and dedicates this Ave Maria piece to everyone including Lili who introduced her to the world of music. At the end of the concour, Lili thanks Hino and the latter asserts she will continue playing the violin. Just then on stage, all the concour guys gather as an ensemble and play a song for Hino. The final scene shows everyone helping out the little kids in a school performance.

Episode 26
This OVA episode and takes place after the concours. Hino is taking up violin lessons and while meeting her female friends, she tells them of a special summer camp of 2 days and 3 nights by Seisou’s headmaster with the theme of ‘unique tune’. Of course for Amou and Mio, they would be thinking something more like a summer violin romance for her. This episode mainly sees Hino spending some time with the guys (but feels short of any feeling of a date). Each time expressing their earnest feelings of change that Hino brought to them. For instance the first ‘date’ with Hihara at the windy park (playing a Gavotte duet eventually), getting lost but picked up by Ousaki in his car, Yunoki inviting her to a flower garden and playing a flute solo for her, talking to Kanazawa in the kitchen as she couldn’t sleep (he mentions something about her lonely love life. Probably she’s oblivious because she has too many guys to choose from. Haha! Just kidding), Shimizu performing his cello solo to her at a church, accompanying Tsukimori to the aquarium whereby he was being asked to help heal a stressed dolphin with his violin (gosh! It worked! Even dolphins get cheered up by his music!), and finally Tsuchiura dedicating a piano piece to her at a planetarium via piano that has many famous pianist playing it including Hamai. Other than that, we see the gang having fun at the beach and a night barbeque on the last day of the camp. Hino has found her answer on the theme. That is, the unique tune of each song depends on the moment when it is being played coupled in with several other factors like the place and feelings put into it. Hino plays a song for everyone. I say, she has improved a lot and sounds much better.

La Corda D’Oro: Secondo Passo

There was a 2 episode special released around 2 years after the TV series ended. Entitled La Corda D’oro: Secondo Passo, I read that this special is meant to promote the game. This means that it isn’t meant as a promotional ‘appetizer’ for any upcoming anime sequels as it ends just here. Abruptly. So yeah, I guess it’s the producer’s way of saying if you want to know more about the development of the characters and story, please go play the game (there are 3 sequels of the game split by 5 instalments). In this double special episodes, we are introduced to a few more hot looking guys and I somewhat feel it’s like an expansion to Hino’s harem. Something like that I think. Well, this series was meant to target female audiences in the first place, right?

Special Episode 1
The new school term is starting in September. The usual suspects are still there, whether practising their instruments or involve in other club activities like Tsuchiura’s football club. We learn Fuyuumi has joined the orchestra club and Shimizu has grown a little taller. Not only that, he doesn’t talk as drowsy as before. If you’re wondering why the TV series ended without anyone being the winner, then wait no more. Apparently my guess is that the performance was too good that they can’t decide on a winner between Tsukimori, Tsuchiura and Yunoki. Kanazawa explains that there will be a final selection to pick a grand winner and they have to use one of the pieces they played in their previous selections. So why of all times now? You see, Seisou has got a new principal. He is Akihiko Kira and yes, another bishie. This school is getting more and more good looking, doesn’t it? We also learn Yunoki is going to USA to get his MBA (hence stopping music) and this is something he decided himself. Then in Hino’s class, they have got a new blonde cool looking foreigner (as expected) transfer guy, Aoi Kaji. When Kaji spots Hino, he immediately gets excited, goes up to her and holds her hand while ranting how he has come to this school looking for her. Yeah, another ‘rival’ if you know what I mean. Then Hino and the rest of the concour pals get called to the music room. Kira announces that he plans to use them as an ensemble for a port’s 150th anniversary. This would also help raise the academy’s profile. However Kira tells Hino that he DOES NOT NEED Hino in the ensemble as she isn’t up to their level. Everyone is unhappy because it’s like leaving a comrade out. However Kira has the final say on things. Another mean guy from first looks. What else to do but to practice further in the garden. Hino’s music attracts Kaji who notes there is a hint of sadness in it. After learning that she was left out, Kaji thinks that the shock must be the reason why her playing sounds bad (yes, she still has that amateur sound). Hino takes this chance to ask him if they have met before. He replies that he once heard her playing her violin at the park and was captivated by her music (must be during the time when the violin had magic). On the way home, they bump into another hot stud but an unfriendly one, Kiriya Etou. Kaji and Etou seems to know each other as the latter mocks Kaji about quitting violin and that was probably his wisest decision. He goes on to say that Kaji is into Hino just because she plays the violin and that she is wasting her time. Kaji stops him from insulting Hino anymore so he walks away. Next day, Kanazawa supervises the ensemble. Ironically though everyone is good individually, they’re bad when they’re playing together. This is going to take time. And they haven’t got much of it. Though they still can’t accept that Hino has been left out, in a way it is true that her level is below par and do they have the will to lower their performance to match her level? Shimizu notes that they need a viola for the ensemble to sound better. Ousaki meets Hino on the way home and he hands her a flyer about an educational concert for the children. Ousaki spurred to take concours in Vienna, won’t be able to make it so he wants Hino to replace him. Think of it as his gift for her for being left out. Though he doesn’t require her to give an answer now, Hino thinks hard whether she should accept it considering her substandard skill level.

Special Episode 2
Hihara, Shimizu and Fuyuumi are just available to practice since the rest have other duties to shoulder. Tsuchiura isn’t happy that his football mates are playing defensive but they feel that he shouldn’t injure his fingers. Ousaki bumps into Kaji and they talk about Hino. He asks Kaji if he wants to join the ensemble but he replies he has given up playing music. Then Kaji asks Tsuchiura about the drastic change in Hino’s level but the pianist himself doesn’t know the real reason and though she planned to quit at one point, she never gave up and soldiered on because of her love for the violin. This thought him a valuable lesson to not run away and to face things head on. Later Kaji wanders around and spots a viola and plays it. This catches Hino’s attention as she comments how lovely his play is but he looks troubled (he doesn’t want her to hear him play?). Kaji tells his past how he was close friends with Ousaki but was overwhelmed by the latter’s talent. Then when he saw young Tsukimori at a concour, he lost hope and gave up playing the violin and ventured into the viola secretly. Kaji notes that Hino’s music is heart warming and can feel her passion for it. Hino also thinks Kaji loves music but his sad expression doesn’t seem to indicate it like as though he is really troubled by something. Then Kaji hears Tsukimori’s practice and realize he was that kid at the concour. Tsukimori advises him that techniques aren’t enough to move people’s heart. You need a person’s heart to do so. Coincidentally, I don’t know who this Etou guy really is because he just keeps popping up at places and doesn’t hesitate to mock Kaji. But this time Kaji is more confident (why not? After going around getting pep talk from the pros). I guess he borrowed lines he learned from others like how he won’t run away and that technique isn’t everything. Soon they hear Hino’s practice in the woods and head there (even the ensemble takes a break to go watch her). After realizing her handsome harem is watching her, she says that she isn’t scared to go on stage now and accepts Ousaki’s offer to play at the educational concert. Likewise, Kaji requests to join the ensemble as he can play the viola. Sure everyone has no qualms about it. Now we just need to convince Kira to let him in. Don’t worry, Kanazawa will do the persuasion. Hino gets a surprise as Kaji drops to his knees and kisses her hand as thanks. Must be a real shocker for the other guys, eh? If that isn’t embarrassing enough, Amou snaps a shot of this romantic deed. Imagine what will happen if this scoop gets out. Get the evidence back! The day of the ensemble’s performance arrives and everyone including Kaji (minus Hino of course) plays exceptionally well. Then it is Hino’s turn to play for her part. Though the episode just ends here, I later find out that there are extra scenes in which we see Hino in action and other footage not shown are those Hino talked to the other guys for advice after feeling down for being left out of the ensemble. Other than that, it isn’t anything much.

Music Is The Food To The Soul
So the usual life goes on in the end. I guess this whole series revolves around the development of the characters. Everyone has their own set of problems. Even seemingly perfect ones or those at the top aren’t flawless to begin with. We see how much Hino changed from someone who wasn’t interested in music and doesn’t even have any background training in it, to someone who loves playing the violin. Just like in real life, we may not like doing certain things at first but after going through with it, it’s either you get the hang of it and accept it or it scars you for the rest of your life. Hino’s perseverance of never giving up is her strong point. At first she was too reliant on the magic violin for her performance but that eventually became her stumbling block. It was like she was contended in the comfort zone of its magic till she realized that she lost it forever. As proven, she can do well on her own. Just that she needs to put in more effort than before. Though it may take years for her to reach the same level as her peers. Hmm… This may be trivial but for Hino’s mood, it’s either she is cheery or depressed for a streak of the time. It’s all part of the process of learning to appreciate music and her violin.

As for the other guys, it was nice to see that they have their own issues and inner demons to deal with. Call it fate or coincidence, their meeting with Hino definitely changed their lives and outlook of the future. It made them look at a different perspective, confront their fears and take the necessary action to move forward. For example, Tsukimori isn’t as cold and unfriendly he was at the beginning, Fuyuumi no longer a nerve-wreck and exudes some confidence and Tsuchiura does not hate nor fear playing in public anymore. All these life changing moments are all thanks to Hino. It was nice to see the past of some of the main characters and thankfully it didn’t drag to several episodes. However I wished that they could have also explored Shimizu and Fuyuumi’s past too. Unless there is nothing much to be told about them.

For the romance part, there are many moments that Hino and the guys have come into close contact or at least scenes that show they may have hit off something. Each of the guys have their fair share of screen time and moment with Hino so I suppose it is just fair for those who are fans of certain pairings. In the end of course, Hino herself is oblivious to the feelings of the guys around her. Her love for the violin comes first. She’s sure got a bunch of colourful guys flanking her. From nice ones to mean ones. Speaking of which, Tsukimori as we know is the aloof kind. But he is not as ‘dangerous’ as Yunoki because he does not hide his emotions. Tsukimori’s natural character can be seen all over his surface but Yunoki is less obvious.

Another plus point of this anime is the many short musical pieces that we get to hear and enjoy. You could say that they are music to your ears. But since I am not a classical music buff, they all sound good to me even if some of them played badly, I can’t tell the difference unless like Hino obviously play out of tune. When I first heard the opening theme, Brand New Breeze, I thought it was Celine Dion singing! Well, at least it reminded me of her singing style. Actually sung by Kanon and she made a short cameo appearance in the anime. Yeah, one of the guests at Hamai’s charity concert. As for the ending theme, it felt like a ballad sung by a boy band. It is entitled Crescendo by Stella Quintet. As for the voice acting, I have no qualms that they fit their characters and their personality. However there is 1 exception. I do not find Kaji’s voice to be fitting. He may be a nice guy but the way he sounded was like as though he is a kind of weak person! His soft -spoken nature as though he is tired or something. Definitely his voice doesn’t match his looks. But a surprise one was Shimizu’s voice actor. I found out he is voiced by Jun Fukuyama (Lelouch in Code Geass). I never expected that guy to do a sleepy falsetto for Shimizu and it was quite a shocking departure from his usual roles. Kudos for that.

Something about the concour still bothers me. Firstly, it is the format of how the participants are chosen. I thought that there will be a fair chance for all Music Department students to enter the concour in some sort of elimination selection. But no, the participants were already handpicked. And I suppose the principal could also see fairies so the reason why Hino got picked was by this fact even though her skills sucked at first. Then, if Tsuchiura can be recommended to participate after the concour has started, wouldn’t it be fair too that the other students who still hold interest may plead to join so? And if there are 4 selections and the first 3 were just rankings that have no effect in the sense that there is no elimination or some sort of points system, doesn’t it feel that the earlier concours are like just for testing? What about the themes for the selection? I may not be familiar in this line of music but I don’t see how the themes are related to the pieces they choose. To me, it is abstract that if I just think about it that it fits the theme, it could have been any tune. In the end, there is no explanation if the participants’ piece fit the theme or they go off tangent. So really, this theme thing is kinda redundant, don’t you think?

Sometimes the judges’ consistency baffles me. For instance if the participants need a piano accompanist for their piece (unless the participant plays the piano), how come there was one time they allowed Yunoki to perform his flute solo? Maybe the piece doesn’t require a piano accompaniment? What about Hino turning up in her normal school uniform in the final selection? Aren’t they strict about elegance of one’s appearance as well? And I thought this concour was supposed to be intra-school competition. Seriously, there were no other participants other than those of Seisou. Does Tsukimori’s win mean he will represent the school? Not sure. As for Lili, I am still wondering his intention of making the magic violin and what did he want Hino to test it for. I know it’s to spread the love of music but over centuries, you’d think he would have at least perfected it. Then it also puzzles me when he can’t fix it with his magic or replace another one (maybe it’ll take centuries). And is Lili the only fairy in the academy? I thought somewhere in the series, we’re going to see that other participants have their own fairies to aid them too (sorry, just fresh from watching Yumeiro Patissiere), but nope, it is their own hard work that got them this far.

As already said that the drawing and art of the characters cater to lots of good looking people. However I do notice at times that there is a drop in quality and though it may not be obvious, if you take a closer look, sometimes the character do lack the details or look just plain weird. As for the part whereby the participants are performing and the audience are supposed to close their eyes and visualize how the piece brings out certain emotions. Well, there is nothing exaggerating (like getting blown into outer space) and the most is that they’ll be transported to a tranquil location, that’s all. My favourite part of the series is Lili’s One Point Classic segment right after the ending credits. Here, Lili will enlighten little pieces of information about musical instruments, famous composers and musical terms and process before asking viewers a quiz relating to it. It was interesting to try and guess the answer and you only have so much time till the next episode preview finishes and after that Lili will display the answer. I may not get even half correct but at least I got some right and I am proud of it! Hey, not bad for a guy who has minimal knowledge in music. Erm… I don’t think I should be proud of that.

So yeah, I am not fully interested in classical music but if I hear any attractive and popular ones I would still stop and listen to it. Just like in some parts of the world, sports (or football if you’re crazy and obsessed about it) unite the people around the world. Music is no different and in addition soothes the soul in many ways, a universal language for peace. Music is not about thinking, it’s about feeling. Of course to excel well in music, starting at a young age is vital because practice makes perfect. Hey, now come to think of it, perhaps the reason why I still suck at playing piano after all these years is because I don’t have a fairy to grant me a magical one. Hah. A lame excuse to cover my laziness. Time to take out the piano sheet and start studying them again. Oh damn it. I already lost interest. How to be good like that? Just keep wishing that a fairy would grant me one.

Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin

July 23, 2011

I was never a fan or follower of any sort of occult or the supernatural. Neither am I for the horror series. So what made me decide to watch Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin? You know me. I read that there was this comedy element so I thought it was going to be one of those spoofs and rip-offs for instance like how Hollywood did with that Scary Movie. Not exactly like that but this is what made up my mind that this show could be a funny one. Looking at the promotional poster, I saw a commanding and superior-looking lady in white, sitting on top of a wuss guy like as though she’s using him as a human chair! That definitely seals it. Now this I got to see.

As part of the occult theme in this series, I’m sure that many of us have read or at least heard about the famous end-of-the-world prophecy of Nostradamus. Remember that 2012 movie that stroke fear worldwide about the possibility of the world ending on that year just because some Mayan calendar wasn’t clear whether it just ran out of space for further dates. Apparently in this year as shown in this series, mankind is facing a different kind of Apocalypse. Towering beam-firing aliens are destroying our world. Hmm… I thought those aliens resemble something like those ATs in Star Wars. Well, at least we won’t have to worry about destroying ourselves from global warming. Hehe, I’m not helping either.

It seems that something dubbed the Nostradamus Key has triggered the events of the world back in 1999. So the future surviving agents are sending time travelling agents back in time in hopes of finding the Key and hope restore humanity. Unfortunately this isn’t going to be an easy job because well, agent #5 just died. Oh boy. What does this mean? Send in the next agent #6 lah. So in addition to occult and horror themes, we have to deal with sci-fi too? I just hope the comedy part will be as interesting and entertaining as well.

Episode 1
The large Waldstein Academy is founded amidst the lush greenery of a remote village in Nagano prefecture of Japan to cater to those students who would like to pursue their passion in the occult. The date is July 1999. Maya Kumashiro, the daughter of the founder and principal of Waldstein, Junichiro, returns to the school because her dad has just recently passed away. She reluctantly has to assume the principal role now and despite her vast knowledge on the occult, she despises it. The academy is currently holding a funeral ceremony with all the students attending. Maya doesn’t seem too thrilled about it as she sits on stage with her arms and legs crossed. Maya’s childhood friend, Ami Kuroki and her bespectacled friend, Kozue Naruse recognizes Maya upon her return. Waldstein’s vice principal, Chihiro Kawashima reads a tearful eulogy and plays Junichiro’s last words on a player. Seems goofy. But it’s like as though he knew his days were numbered. During the ‘speech’, Junichiro mentions about a successful spell of summoning dead ancient spirits. Call it fluke or coincidence, suddenly the windows start flapping and mysterious gas appearing. Junichiro’s lifeless body moves and it is clear that he is possessed by a spirit. The hall turns into chaos as everybody runs helter-skelter for safety. Dead Junichiro charges but Maya takes a chair and whacks him right in the face. No respect for your father! Maya takes charge by telling everyone that this is all staged and that spirits do not exist! Tell that to the students again when Junichiro starts to rise once more. This time he breaks out from the hall.

Maya does her research in the library and needs to capture this spirit known as lamie. She meets Kozue who expresses her admiration for the occult and deep respect for Junichiro. Ami brings in more help in the form of Smile, the school mechanic who holds a real big spanner (like that Graham guy in Baccano, eh?) for fighting purposes, and JK (no relation to that Harry Potter author), a big chubby guy with horrendous make-up never seen without his pair of dowsing rods. Yeah, this school is definitely weird alright. Following JK’s rods, they try to track the lamie. Eventually it possesses Kozue and starts attacking the gang. Maya rushes to find the source in order to kill it. Upon opening a room, she sees her father and the entire scene changes into her home. He mentions that this was all a set up and starts getting emotional how he neglected his family while building this academy. Maya plays along till she picks up an axe and is prepared to chop off his head. She knew the lamie has the ability to read one’s mind and heart so she wasn’t swayed by her its words. The lamie is destroyed (releasing Kozue from its possession) and the room returns to a storeroom storing all sorts of occult torture devices. Maya remembers how she was fascinated with the occult when she was young. But her father was too busy researching the occult that he slapped her when she reminded him about their promise to go shopping. Because of that, Maya and her mom left while Junichiro continued his obsession to build his academy. Thus the reason Maya decided to return to this school: To destroy it and the occult that brings nothing but ruin to the world and delusion to the people. As Maya takes a breather on the rooftop, a handphone drops down from the sky. She picks it up when suddenly a bright light comes shining down from the middle. Is an angel descending? Heck no. It’s a naked guy! Her shocked expression wasn’t the fact he was floating down from the sky before her. If you look closely at his shadow over Maya’s face… You’ll understand why… Meanwhile Chihiro and her bodyguard resolve to keep a close eye on Maya.

Episode 2
Like any normal girl after seeing a naked guy, Maya runs for her life. Yeah, don’t take any chances. He might be a pervert or rapist. Worst still, that guy chases after her. Naked. Thank God he fell into a pit. Maya rests back in her room and watches a television programme. Currently there is a young boy, Fumiaki Uchida AKA Bunmei on the rise to popularity as he is able to bend spoon using his psychic powers. Maya takes a picture of herself using the handphone but gets freaked out upon seeing a skull and bones as its result. Next day in school, Maya discusses certain school matters with Chihiro. The latter introduces a new history teacher, Minoru Abe. Uh… It’s that naked guy! After excusing Chihiro, Maya tries to kill him! After she mentions about his weird handphone, Abe tells her that he is a time agent sent from the future to protect the future. Narrating how the world is overrun by aliens and on the verge of being destroyed, Abe was sent as agent #6 because of his top class psychokinesis. Abe was bloody cool and calm when he was being explained about the Key, the rift in the time-space dimension rift that causes the appearance of the aliens and the special handphone he was given to. Using some kind of special technology, the object that is being taken while thinking of your intentions with it, will allow one to see whether or not it exists in 2012. For instance, if you take a picture of a human and it turns out to be skull and bones, you can bet the future is still the same gloomy and apocalyptic end that it’s heading. It’s an interesting feature but really, how can such a technology see into the future? It’s really mind boggling if you think about it. I wonder if this could be the new application feature on our iPad. Anyway Abe needs to use this handphone in order to find and pinpoint the object that is the Key. Oddly enough, Abe can communicate with the agents in the future, though it is just one way. I can think of all the contradictions about this but that would a big headache. Hmm… Maybe he’s from the past so when he ‘communicates’, the message may take a decade to reach our future folks but really if you consider it, wouldn’t it be like ‘instant’?

So that is how Abe is transported to the past. But Maya still doesn’t believe this crap. Abe mentions that the Bunmei kid was him 10 years ago (which is now). She wants him to prove himself by bending a spoon. Since he took too long, she kicks him out. He lost his powers? Abe goes around taking pictures of stuff in the academy while Chihiro takes Maya back to Junichiro’s place where she is going to live. During shower, strange events start to occur. A warning in blood not to interfere is written on the mirror, an invisible creature breaks into the window and only its wet footsteps are visible (creepy!). Abe was nearby and crashes in Tarzan style. Maya thinks he is the Great King that will bring terror to mankind on July 21st as prophesized. The creature closes in and Maya accidentally pushes Abe away, revealing a secret passageway. Down the stairways, the creature tries to strangle Maya when a great flash of light behind the bricks disintegrates it. Maya sees a notebook belonging to Junichiro. Upon reading it, she learns he was researching about the Nostradamus Key and trying to find ways to destroy it. There were some parties who disagreed and tried to take him out. Junichiro seems to know his time is up if Maya finds this notebook and has written all sort of defensive magical spells in it. This means that somebody killed her father. Next day, Abe becomes the homeroom teacher of Ami and Kozue’s class. To his surprise, Maya becomes a student in his class too. Later Maya reveals that she plans on cooperating with him (though she hasn’t forgive him yet) by exchanging information to find Junichiro’s murderer and using herself as bait to lure the perpetrator out. They shake hands as sign of agreement. But when Abe mentions that she really loves the occult, she punches him and asserts her hate for it. Nothing went right for him ever since he came, eh?

Episode 3
There are rumours that several townspeople are going missing. They suspect it may be the doing of a tengu, a spirit of the Japanese folklore. They decide to investigate it in hopes that it will lead them to the Key. After Abe leaves, he bumps into Chihiro. She starts falling in love with him after he praises her hairstyle instead of teasing it. Eww… Those puckering lips look disgusting. Abe takes a picture of her and it reveals skull and bones. Better get yourself away and not associate with her. Abe reminisces about his past and desires to go back. He even calls his mom but didn’t say anything. He enters an eatery and is taken in by a beautiful and busty waitress, Mikaze Nakagawa, politely serving him his favourite curry dish. Abe isn’t just taken in by her looks. He is surprised that she calls him Fumiaki. Her mom only calls him that and so it’s a surprise that someone else does so. Abe makes frequent visits to Mikaze’s shop and one day she asks him if he has free time. Would he pass this chance up? The funny part wasn’t the fact that this small town girl owns a flashy sports car, but rather the way she drives! Abe is in a hell ride of his life! Look at the way she drifts! She can put all those expert drifters in Initial D to shame! Thank God, I don’t know how Abe survived the ordeal but it is sure a traumatizing experience. She takes him to several historical spots in the town. As the duo visit an underground bunker, Maya is pissed and suspicious after she spots him fooling around instead of investigating the tengu case. Abe and Mikaze soon leave the bunker and they spend a little tome closer to each other. Meanwhile Maya is in a pinch as she tries to escape from an attacking creature. Did it get her?

Episode 4
Kozue is missing, Abe tries to turn down Chihiro’s advances as he seeks Mikaze’s help to find Kozue. Oh no. It’s that hell ride all over town again. At a shrine, the duo uncover a secret passageway so Abe tries to become a man to protect Mikaze though we know that he is just putting up an act. Trekking deeper underground, Abe and Mikaze got separated. Abe then bumps into Maya. Looks like she’s still alive. They discuss about pyramids and how this mountain based on some theory is one. The passage leads them to a large world tree. Abe takes a picture of it but it isn’t the Key they’re looking for. Abe falls into a giant dung and a giant moth starts attacking them. Maya is going to let that guy take some responsibility to save the future of mankind. That is when Abe reveals the true story. In the future, he’s some sort of poor guy trying to make a living via road side entertainment. I guess he must’ve lost his spoon bending powers and tries to cheat the audience but they saw his trick and left without any ‘donations’. That’s when the future agent picked him up for a mission. Abe was like a total coward, screaming in defiance about going on this dangerous mission. He was forced to against his will. So! That guy is a complete worthless wuss after all! So much about his grand story. Maya and Abe walk deeper and discover several human bones on the ground. There are lots of cocoons on the wall as Maya spots Kozue in one. She tries to dig her out but coward Abe fails her when all the other moths start awakening so he runs away! F*cking chicken!!! Maya is left to deal with the monstrous moths alone as she has her hands full with unconscious Kozue. Luckily for her, Smile and JK who were also searching for Kozue, bump into Maya as they battle the moths. JK’s dowsing rods are quite handy for fighting if I must say. JK also brings his special keyboard that unleashes a certain frequency to immobilize the moths. Everyone manages to get out of the cave alive before an explosion seals the moths in. They bump into Abe (who is still thankful that he is alive) so Maya gives him the cold shoulder and returns with the rest to the academy. Then he is reunited with Mikaze and he told the most despicable lie ever. He said he saved the missing student and sent her back to the academy. F*ck you! As Chihiro writes in her love diary for Abe (oh, if she’d only seen the kind of wuss he is), the Bodyguard comes in reporting about the explosions that sealed the moths in. Chihiro becomes wary of Maya for being a troublesome principal.

Episode 5
Kozue shows Maya a spoon that never rusts. She in turn tells her about some OOPart thingy. Over the next few scenes, Kozue gets excited at the slightest everyday occurrence and thinks it must be some sort of occult. Like the teacher’s bad handwriting to be some sort of alien language! Or following a black cat just to have bad luck but her injury she got was of her own doing. Abe gets a visit from Mikaze. She thinks of selling bread at this school to help pay her car loan (it’s that trauma again!). Maya, Ami and Kozue meet at the rooftop during recess. Kozue laments how she was the only one who hasn’t experienced an occult. Seriously? Has she forgotten about being possessed or kidnapped by one? Apparently she claims she didn’t see them since she believes what is important are the things you can’t see with your eyes. Soon Kozue goes missing again but this time it didn’t take long for her friends to find her trying to reach a near-death experience state in some cold storage room. Abe tries to get Maya to approve Mikaze’s bread selling activities in school. I guess after pissing her off, she stamps her approve mark. On his forehead. Be careful to stamp it on the paper… Later, Kozue volunteers as a test subject for a near-death experiment. Oddly enough, they have a big screen to see what Kozue is seeing. Is the afterlife a colourful and fantasy-like place? Up to you to interpret as Kozue goes deeper into this world. Her time limit is up as the scientists pull her back out. When Kozue regains consciousness, her friends are suspicious of her change in behaviour. She doesn’t seem to take this occult thingy seriously. Then on the big screen, they see Kozue trying to search for the glasses she dropped (around the time when the scientists pulled her out). Is the real Kozue still trapped there? Besides, the Kozue that came out from the capsule did not have specs on. Hmm…

Episode 6
So Kozue becomes somewhat lethargic to the occult. Ami decides to make Kozue remember and want Maya to help her out. They did all those so called lame occult tricks like what Kozue got excited over in the previous episode but Kozue tells them straight why it’s not. Eventually Maya orders Abe (busy accompanying Mikaze and a guinea-pig for her bread) to do spoon bending in front of Kozue. Of course he flops (since he admitted his powers are long gone) and makes a fool of himself. Kozue still doesn’t believe in the occult but it is strange when tears suddenly stream down her eyes. Maya concludes that Kozue left her heart in the aftermath so Maya plans to go back to the lab and bring her back via near-death experience. I guess Abe wants to redeem himself so he decides to step in instead of Maya. Good, she lets him do it. As Abe goes deeper, the rest sees his memories during his childhood as Bunmei. He seems a lonely kid but a traumatic one crops up. On a day Bunmei was looking forward to go to the planetarium with his mom, she rescheduled his performance on that day. When Bunmei tried to remind her, she slapped him! Maya felt guilty because he was the same like her as her father did to her. Then they see the alien invasion that wrecks havoc in the future. Abe finds Kozue sitting alone dejectedly lamenting about the need to see with her heart but still can’t see it. Abe realizes that she may be looking for her glasses which are on her head. Kozue returns to her perky self and this dumbfounds all her buddies. Later Maya agrees to work with Abe to find the Key seeing that what he said about the future is true. Now he believes him. Next day, Mikaze thanks Maya for allowing her to sell bread on the school grounds. Maya gets upset when she sees Abe helping to sell and punches him for doing other jobs while on duty. Relationship, back to normal.

Episode 7
Ami’s labourer dad, Shigeru spots Maya walking by but she isn’t interested to stay and chat. Come Sunday, Maya and Kozue pay a visit to Ami in her room while Abe bumps into Smile and JK at Mikaze’s shop. The TV news reports a mysterious crop circle so Maya calls Abe to go and investigate. Shigeru and Maya’s friends offer to help. Reaching the spot, the police have barricaded it. Maya suggests to camp here tonight seeing that the crop circle was only recently made. Of course Shigeru and the other girls won’t let them have all the fun and invite them to their BBQ dinner back home. Then later that night, as the gang stake out, a UFO suddenly appears so they chase after it. Thankfully in this town, traffic isn’t bad so they can speed how fast they want. Thank goodness Shigeru’s driving isn’t as horrible as Mikaze. They reach a cow farm and have to go on foot. They get freaked out when they stumble upon several dead cows and their blood have been sucked out. Then the UFO appears again. This time a little gray alien floating down. Abe takes a picture of it. Wait! Something is amiss. Why are there pictures of JK?! So yeah. The whole thing is a set up. JK is dressed up as that alien while the UFO is attached to ropes coming from a crane handled by Smile. Ami confronts her dad who admits that he set up all this because he wanted to see Maya smile and have fun again. Maya chides Shigeru for wasting their time because they’re serious about this. Ami slaps her for being rude. Then Shigeru slaps her daughter and wants her to apologize but Ami runs off.

Episode 8
Maya and Ami’s relationship hit rock bottom. They’re not talking. Maya learns that all the events of the crop circle were made except for the dead cows. She and Abe investigate it and it is too big to be a prank since the place is scattered with carcasses. Then Maya remembers that she forgot to meet up with Ami at a shrine (Ami wanted to talk things out) and rushes there. Eventually Maya manages to get there. Before they could talk, a little green creature sinks its teeth into Kozue’s shoulder! What the hell is that?! Plus, more of them appear surrounding the girls. Then a big mother emerges and kidnaps Ami. They rush back to Shigeru and tell him about the situation. Maya says those little green things are chupacabra (I thought it was that large Amazon rodent. Oh wait, those are capybaras. Hehe…). The gang stock up on their ammos, weapons and head to rescue Ami. How do they know where she is? Use those dowsing rods, baby! Abe is in for the ride when they abruptly pick him up after another visit to Mikaze’s store. At an abandoned shrine, they trek across the graveyard as several chupacabras start pounding on them. Everyone fights back but Kozue goes missing (again). Inside the shrine, Maya finds Ami on a stone. Ami comes to and realizes many chupacabra around her. Maya extends her hand to pull her up. Both girls reconcile as they fight the little green things. Then the big mother comes out but was taken out easily by Shigeru. I can’t believe its head fall off after just a few rounds. With all the chupacabras taken out, Abe snaps a shot but they aren’t the Key. And for Kozue, she’s found asleep safe and sound amidst the skeletons. After the gang leaves, the shrine is burnt down and it seems to indicate of Chihiro and Bodyguard’s doing. She wants him to keep an eye on Maya. Maya and co gather back at Ami’s place as Shigeru tells a ghost story that only Kozue gets freaked out. Abe notices Maya smiling.

Episode 9
Abe manages to get Maya’s approval to let Mikaze sell ice cream at school (yeah, just want to impress her I guess). She gets defensive when he notices real estate documents on her desk. During a class by Chihiro to summon a spirit via medium (using herself), instead of summoning Junichiro, a little girl named Akari appears instead. Each time she appears and disappears, she leaves a trail of snow behind. Akari asserts that she wants to go home. Maya agrees to help her return home. The only clue they know is that she is 7 years old and a first grader at elementary school. I’m sure Abe would love to help the gang out but I guess they had to leave him behind since he got so distracted by Mikaze. After checking out several elementary schools in the vicinity, finally they find her home. However she starts sitting outside the door and feels cold. The entire around suddenly turns into snow. The blizzard is so powerful that it shattered windows. Akari soon disappears. They meet the landlady as she explains Akari’s past. When she just entered elementary school, her parents divorced and it was hard for her daddy to raise her all alone. The landlady tried to help her out the best she could but maintained not to get too involved. Akari froze to death on Christmas Eve as she was sitting outside her house’s door on a very snowy night. The gang then go in search for Akari’s dad and find him working at a construction site. Despite numerous persuasions to help save his daughter, he tells them to leave since he believes he is responsible for Akari’s death.

Episode 10
Abe calls Maya to the teacher’s room in an attempt to get an answer why she’s avoiding him or if he did anything to upset her. He wants to more about her and get to know her better as her partner. I think we all know why Maya’s so hothead against him. Just when Mikaze starts calling him, he diverts all his attention to her. Yeah, enough to earn another Maya’s super punch in the face. Maya and the rest later go visit Akari’s father. He won’t let them in so they plan to stay outside till he lets them.  Finally he gives in (it took all day?). Daddy explains how Akari was such a cheerful girl and their family was a very happy one. Till he spent too much time working so mommy didn’t like all that pressure and left. Daddy continued being a workaholic and even if Akari tried to cheer things up about hoping for Santa Claus, he shoots her down that there is no such thing. Akari was adamant in waiting to Santa to show up. At work, he received a call from the landlady that Akari was locked outside her house. He rushed to the hospital but it was too late. Akari passed away. Maya plans to hold a Christmas party for Akari. Meanwhile Mikaze and Abe have returned from an outstation trip. Guess what? Chihiro is there. I smell a cat fight coming up. Abe tries to get out before the fireworks start by saying that he got an important call to help Maya. Chihiro wonders if it is the demolition of Maya’s residence at the academy. Then it hit Abe about those documents. Abe enters the soon-to-be-demolished residence and meets Maya. She talks about her dad and the party they’re planning. She has an idea for him to help out. During the party, Akari appears and everyone have a fun time celebrating. Then Maya’s cue for Abe to enter as Santa Claus. However he is knocked out. Santa enters and everyone is surprised to see Akari’s dad. He hands her a present, hugs her and apologizes. Akari thanks her daddy and can now peacefully rest in peace. Maya returns to her partially demolished residence and remembers how it was her Christmas wish to Junichiro that she wanted a monster school (thus the birth of Waldstein Academy). Maya felt guilty for never realizing his feelings and only turned her back on him and hated him. Abe comforts her as he holds her hand. This strengthens Maya’s resolve to find her father’s killer and protect this school as well as humanity’s future.

Episode 11
Abe returns to his place one evening to find Mikaze in his room. Seems she manages to get a spare key from the landlord and enter to cook him dinner. Then she hugs him from behind and wonders if he is free tonight. I’m sure you know what that guy is taking this as. Turns out that she brings him to a group of occult people (why is their dressing like KKK?). Mikaze passionately seduces Abe and tells him about the den of evil at Waldstein and that they have to kill the witch that has returned. She brainwashes him into saying that Maya is the witch and that all the occult events that has happened was her doing. After all that hugging, licking, kissing, etc, do you think that guy has the guts to say no? Next day Maya takes Abe out on an outing but his mind is pretty much preoccupied with Mikaze’s words. Eventually he tells her about this so Maya says that she has snapped a photo of herself with the photo but the picture turned out negative. Abe reminds her in order to make it work, she must think about destroying the object. Maya tries to take another one of herself but Abe snatches it away, conceals it and lets Maya repeatedly kick his ass. I guess all that kicking has her tired so Maya leaves. On her return, she encounters Chihiro. What is that creepy smirk on that vice principal’s face? Suddenly it is all over the news that Maya is found dead! Can this be true?! Her bloodied body found sprawled across the floor! Everyone sinks into depression and even Abe misses her mocking. Ah, is he admitting he’s a masochist? While crying alone in his dark room, Chihiro and Bodyguard enter. Abe yells if she killed Maya. Chihiro only nodded so angry Abe charges at her but was pushed back. He is further surprised when Maya appears. Chihiro explains that the body was fake and they used magic to do so. Furthermore, she reveals herself to be a white mage in service to Junichiro to protect Maya and deceive the enemy. Abe still wouldn’t buy this is the real Maya and asks her to show her notebook. She passes it to him when Mikaze suddenly floats in, freezes Abe and destroys the notebook. The rest escape as Mikaze turns herself into a dark witch and hunts them down. Maya and co are surrounded by the occult people. Chihiro orders Bodyguard to take Maya to safety (Maya was getting emotional after learning she is her father’s killer) as she transforms into her true white mage self to fend off Mikaze.

Episode 12
A power battle between the mages begins and their clash of ideals of human’s desire and meaning of love. Mikaze reveals she was the one who unleashed all those occult happenings intended for Maya though she never realized that. Also, she fooled Abe into getting close to him so she could get close to Maya. Bodyguard transforms into a panther with wings to take Maya and escape. Ami, Kozue, Smile and JK are trying to summon Maya’s spirit via various tools but eventually the dowsing rods are the ones that proved useful. Hey, she’s not dead, remember? They see Maya and the panther and go after her. I don’t know how this happened because Kozue becomes part of the brainwashed occult members. The mages’ battle ends with Mikaze vanquishing Chihiro (probably the latter got caught off guard when Mikaze said Abe kissed her). Mikaze goes in pursue of Maya but before Chihiro bites the dust, she goes back to Abe and unfreezes him. She tells him that Junichiro is alive and how they used the same magic trick on Maya to do that. She whispers something in his ear and pecks his cheek before hitting the ground. Mikaze’s chase has them ending up in Waldstein where she blasts and injures Bodyguard to send him crashing down. She confronts Maya but the latter reveals this was all part of her plan to lure her here to activate a spell and that the notebook she destroyed was a fake. Abe arrives in time and ignores Mikaze while calling out to Maya. Mikaze transforms herself back to her harmless form in an attempt to confuse Abe. Maya is able to snap a shot of her and realizes that she is the Key. Abe starts reciting the magic spells from the notebook Maya dropped earlier on as Maya repeats his words to activate a spell around Waldstein and destroy Mikaze. Then every supernatural occult starts disappearing (including Chihiro and Bodyguard) and those under her hypnotizing spell are set free. In the aftermath, Abe tells Maya that Chihiro told him the page of the spell. They both embrace. After Abe reports to his future agents of his mission accomplished, everyone runs out but to their horror, it is still the annihilated world.

Episode 13
A flashback reveals how Junichiro completed his notebook of spells and Chihiro teleported him away to another location and faked his death to find the Key. On the day before the closing ceremony of the academy, Abe tells Maya that Junichiro is still alive. Maya calls Abe’s mom and arranges for them to perform at the ceremony thinking Abe wanted to meet her. However Abe mentions that he has no recollections of visiting this school when he was young. The footage of his memories also proved that and there was a blackout in it. Abe reports this to the future agents and they explain some mumbo-jumbo about time and space dimensional rift about meeting yourself in the past. In short, they’ll both disappear. Furthermore, Abe is revealed to be the Key. Not exactly him, but the act of meeting himself! You know that part Maya snapped in the previous episode? Well, it wasn’t just Mikaze in the picture but Abe as well. I’m sure many of you saw this coming. They are arranging for Abe’s immediate return to prevent that from happening but Abe requests to stay an extra day. The future agents discuss this and it is revealed that their leader is no other than Junichiro. He narrates about the irony of events. He knew the Key was not found at the academy and sent an agent back after his funeral thinking that the Key must have been brought in after he left. However this act itself was the trigger. Maya blames herself for arranging this but Abe notes that he just need to meet his mom and not his younger self. So Maya arranges a meeting with his mom to tell her that the performance is cancelled. She seems pretty upset about it seeing that they’ve travelled from far to this remote place. When she returns home, she finds that little Bunmei had already ran away. Earlier on, Bunmei wanted to come with his mom to see the school but she forbade him in her usual strictness. So I guess that’s why he decided to come to Waldstein all alone and is having a blast, going through all the rooms in the academy. As for Abe and the rest, they have a farewell party at Ami’s place.

The next day after Maya’s closing speech and Abe’s resignation as a teacher, she meets him on the rooftop. It’s time for him to go but Maya doesn’t want him to. Oh. Could it be? Suddenly Abe comes face to face with little Bunmei. The sky turns dark and a dimensional rift opens up in the sky. Aliens start attacking the academy. Bunmei charges at the alien intending to protect this school but gets knocked away unconscious. Abe then takes a spoon in Bunmei’s coat and tells Maya that history changes from now. Now it’s his turn to charge towards the alien and unbelievably, his spoon deflects the alien’s beam! Suddenly he gets his psychokinesis powers back (I’m not sure about the flying part as well) as he sacrifices himself to seal all the aliens back into the rift. He tells Maya to look after Bunmei. The sky returns back to a sunny one and the world is saved. When Bunmei comes to, Maya takes his hand and they walk away. In the future, the agents rejoice that the scenery of their outside world has changed. Junichiro steps out and no longer sees the destroyed world but the one thriving with human life. He gets a call from Maya to join her and Abe for dinner. And what’s this? Maya and Abe are married? Hey, she married someone who is a decade older than her!

Paranormal Activity…
Okay, wait a minute! I’m not saying that the happy ending sucks but the point is not the happy ending. It is the way the world turns out due to the change in history. Remember the time paradox thingy from the Terminator film? The reason it worked out was because the future didn’t change unlike this one, whereby it turned from the bad ending into a happy one. My thoughts and confusion about this sci-fi theory is the same as discussed on this site: Random Curiosity. Think about it. If Abe was sent from the future to save the past and he manages to do so, where do you think this Abe came from seeing that in the peaceful future, Abe is happily married to Maya and thus there is no need to send him back to change the future. In addition, shouldn’t the future Abe have memories of meeting Maya the first time when he first met her in the first episode (considering the case of little Bunmei meeting her in the final episode)? It would have been more plausible if they made it as an alternate future like what they did in Kateikyoushi Hitman Reborn. But not that I would approve of it either. Instead, I suppose of having an expected bad ending, I feel that the producers made a happy one so that viewers won’t be disappointed of how everything ended. I mean, Abe died but Maya still get to live with him, right? So which Abe are we talking about? But aside Abe as the Key, I am wondering Mikaze’s role as the antagonist. Unless her belief in Maya as the Key (which is of course false) to save the world, it’s ironic that she wants to open the door the demon world. Well, she was against Junichiro in finding the Key.

There are other inconsistencies as well. For instance when Maya took a shot with Mikaze and Abe in it, I remember that Abe said that you have to think about the object you want to destroy in the picture to produce the results. So, Maya has got to be thinking about Mikaze when the serene picture came out, right? She couldn’t be still holding a grudge on Abe and made that mistake. Unless a technical glitch… At such a time? Then the part about Abe being able to directly communicate with the future agents in the end. How the heck do you do that? Even communications from Earth to the Moon is delayed about 1 or so second. If the future people can create such a superb invention, they could’ve used their geniuses to create a better weapon to destroy the aliens. Plus, if you think about it, if those future agents are still stuck in their desolated world, it means that the past hasn’t changed, right? If it really does change, they won’t be sitting in that rut and most likely their memories of the events that led to the change will be altered. So yeah, this sci-fi thing really made me go scratching my head especially how it screw out the whole time line and history. Damn sci-fi theories! Damn time paradox theories!

Abe initially is the kind of wuss that everybody would love to hate after his lie and acting big. All talk and no action. So I guess that last part whereby he sacrificed himself to regain his manliness and redeem himself that he wasn’t a total wuss after all. He changed in a way that Maya too changed. She was the kind of girl that will not open her heart easily to anyone. Not even her friends. She may be assertive and strong-willed but is lonely. Her hate for the occult was just a diversion and misguided feelings for her dad but after she gets to know his true feelings, she realizes what is most important to her. It was settled that when Abe made his cool self-sacrificing move, she fell for him. Mikaze may have been a wolf under sheep’s clothing. But seasoned viewers would have probably sensed something amiss for a side character like her to recur many times even if the events of her and Abe don’t seem that all important. Chihiro’s actions are less obvious because she’s been acting like as though she is keeping a close watch on Maya secretly. She’s been made to believe that she’s the culprit and antagonist. But I guess it’s just her way of getting serious to protect Maya. Cheery and lively Kozue is an amusing girl. Noticed that she is some sort of comic relief character who either lost her glasses (she’s really blind without them) and a penchant of getting possessed or abducted by the occult. And she has got the cheek to say that she has never really experienced one! JK and Smile are cool dudes that make a perfect combo pair. I just wish that they have more screen time. You got to love Smile swinging his giant spanner and who wouldn’t smile whenever pudding maniac JK comes into the picture. He is inseparable from his multi-purpose dowsing rods so much so it’s like his extended body part. Really, perhaps his rods could even serve as a TV antenna.

I’m not saying that the horror part is scary enough to scare seasoned horror fans. But there were several scenes that were creepy enough to spook me out! Perhaps it’s because I’m watching this show late into the wee hours of the night all by myself. Another creepy fact is the ending credits whereby we see a guy and a girl lying down on the grass with their eyes open. Not sure if they’re corpses or it’s just a still picture but the real images can be scary if your mind starts to go astray about those occult stuff. Fortunately, nothing scary happened. But for the few occult creatures that appear, I guess it’s enough for this short series. Some of the occult information bits are interesting but if you’re fascinated to find out more, you can always do your own research. As for the comedy part, other than Abe getting beaten up by Maya (yes, those are funny and no, I’m not a sadist), Mikaze’s awesome drifting and Chihiro’s genuine but hilarious fawning over Abe (man, I really thought there will be a cat fight when Abe’s rival showed up but not expected it in the form of mages), it is the facial expressions that Maya puts up. We all know her typical cold and unfriendly mug that is enough to make a spirit think twice of approaching her. But she has other expressions too and the funny ones are when she is surprised, flabbergasted or just annoyed. It’s fun to see this variety of facets. Of course she is also shown to have more emotion as a human being like the time she shed tears and also smile.

One thing about the drawing and art of this series. I have to admit that the background and sceneries are rich and well done. From the lush forests to the flowing water, they provide soothing eye candy with their smooth animation and quality texture. However, I can’t say the same about the characters. They seem simple and at times their animation jerky. At times if you stare straight at their faces, they just look at a little too odd. I had this feeling towards Chihiro and Mikaze especially. Sometimes if I don’t feel like paying attention on the characters, I would just focus my concentration to the background. On a trivial note, during the next episode preview, they feature bonus songs sung by the seiyuus in the series. You can get them if you buy the DVD of course.

Speaking of which, if you buy the DVD, there a total of 5 specials in all. The first one is some sort of a music montage in which Maya sings the Love Machine song in about a minute and a half. Though you can see many of the series’ characters dancing, some of the other scenes are taken from the first episode. Special 2 is the start of a series of shorts lasting about 3 minutes. It is about young Maya and Ami together with their snake-like pet with a big bulge in its middle stomach they found, Tsucchi. As the girls are going to the pool, the come across another girl (Kozue) running for her life. A snake strikes out from the bushes, barely missing them. They take it back as Junichiro explains it is Tsuchinoko, some sort legendary Japanese creature. The girls are fascinated and decide to keep it. After naming it Tsucchi, they hope they can get along. But Tsucchi attacks once more but thankfully it misses and hits the wall. In Special 3, Ami tells Shigeru about Tsucchi. Noting that Tsuchinoko isn’t a friendly creature, he trains her how to avoid its poison fangs. Meanwhile tries to feed Tsucchi with all sorts of foodstuff but it only takes interest in sake. Then Maya learns about Ami’s training and after a little demonstration, it’s Ami’s turn to train Maya. I guess they got good enough to know when Tsucchi is going to strike and avoiding it becomes like some sort of a reflex. After it calms down and is rather tame (perhaps it doesn’t want to end up banging the wall), the girls discuss if Tsucchi is lonely and decide to find it a mate tomorrow. As they trek into the woods, a truck driver spots them. In Special 4, they contemplate if Tsucchi is male or female before hearing voices of Kozue searching for her glasses. It’s right on top of her head. After she leaves, they come across a swamp pit. Suddenly a giant black salamander surfaces and attacks them. Tsucchi goes into defence of the girls and bites the salamander unconscious. Wow. It’s like David versus Goliath. The girls are thrilled and happy of what Tsucchi did and vowed to stay together. In Special 5, Tsucchi doesn’t look well. They hope it will be better soon but unfortunately it died and they had a tearful burial. Then they watch a TV report, a witness retelling his encounter with Tsuchinoko. The news is abuzz with it so much so they dug up Tsucchi’s grave and did some test on it. They call it pseudo-Tsucchi. This pisses off Maya and Ami as they repeatedly shout aloud that they hate adults. In present time, it seems it is a story told by Ami to Kozue. Kozue still ponders the identity of the clumsy bespectacled girl (seriously, she doesn’t remember? Even if she hummed those same lines?). Ami gets a call from Maya that she is arriving soon for Junichiro’s funeral so they head back into the building. Note: Maya looks much cuter when she is a child. Second note: No, I am NOT a lolicon.

At the end of each episode, the tongue-in-cheek disclaimer that states this work is purely of fiction and that aliens, psychics and other occult stuff do not really exist. Unless if you believe in them! So really, it is all up to you of whether or not you want to believe not just about the supernatural but the other stuff in life whether it is the truth or fiction. Everyone is free to believe in them all. Including whether or not the end of the world will really come in 2012. It’s just how we use that information and belief in our everyday life that makes the difference. Like how I believe anime is the new religion, manga the bible and games for ‘real life’ experience. It’s no joke! Anime has invaded the world and became a growing fad and trend like some sort of an occult. All hail the maids and gothic lolitas!

One of the many essential bodies in high school is always the student council or as known in its Japanese equivalent, seitokai. There are countless high school anime genres that either have the seitokai as the leading protagonist or supporting role. Either way, they are important in overseeing the welfare of the students in their school. Or so it seems. In today’s versus blog, it will be between 2 seitokai-themed animes so much so they have it in their series title, Seitokai No Ichizon and Seitokai Yakuindomo. Which of the 2 is the better one? You decide.

English meaning
Seitokai No Ichizon: The student council’s discretion.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: The student council members.

Name can be shortened to
Seitokai No Ichizon: Seizon – it means ‘survival’, a joke of course.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: SYD – its initials.

The school they are from
Seitokai No Ichizon: Hekiyou Private High School.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: Ousai Academy.

School type
Seitokai No Ichizon: Co-ed school.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: Previously an all-girls school and was recently opened as co-ed.

The student council members
Seitokai No Ichizon: Kurimu Sakurano (president), Minatsu Shiina (vice president), Chizuru Akaba (secretary), Mafuyu Shiina (treasurer) and Ken Sugisaki (Blue Chip Seat).
Seitokai Yakuindomo: Shino Amakusa (president), Takatoshi Tsuda (vice president), Aria Shichijou (secretary) and Suzu Hagimura (treasurer).

The only guy in the student council
Seitokai No Ichizon: Sugisaki.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: Tsuda.

How he got there
Seitokai No Ichizon: As the student council members are chosen base on popularity vote, another way to land a spot in the council is to be the top scorer in the school, thus winning the Blue Chip Seat and that is what Sugisaki did.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: On the first day in school, Tsuda has been forced to join the student council by Shino after being pulled in for his scruffy uniform appearance. Due to the very imbalanced male-female ratio of the school (28 to 524 – a harem buildup potential), his appointment is to give views from the male side as he is their representative.

Why he attended this school
Seitokai No Ichizon: He wants to have a harem of his own.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: It is close to his home.

The kid-like character
Seitokai No Ichizon: Kurimu – acts like one too.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: Suzu – has an IQ of 180.

Intelligent loli
Seitokai No Ichizon: Elise Toudou.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: Suzu.

Brute girls
Seitokai No Ichizon: Minatsu – quite an athletic girl.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: Mutsumi Mitsuba – from the judo club.

Fear of men
Seitokai No Ichizon: Mafuyu may be an obsessive fan of Boys Love and into yaoi, but she afraid of men. However Sugisaki is an exception.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: The disciplinary committee president, Kaede Igarashi has a serious case of androphobia.

Tsundere?
Seitokai No Ichizon: Minatsu.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: Shino.

Probably the most physically well endowed
Seitokai No Ichizon: Chizuru.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: Aria.

Protective?
Seitokai No Ichizon: Chizuru has this tendency to want ‘to be involved’ with Kurimu and at points can be seen ‘brainwashing’ her.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: Sayaka Dejima is Aria’s personal maid and seems to have some sort of fetish that Aria wears or touches. She even holds her chastity belt key.

Boob conscious
Seitokai No Ichizon: Kurimu.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: Shino.

The yaoi guy
Seitokai No Ichizon: Mafuyu’s fantasizing of a fictional character Nakameguro with Sugisaki actually becomes true when the former becomes a transfer student in their school.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: Shino’s wild imagination Tsuda in some yaoi Boys Love during her substitute participation in a judo contest.

Student council advisor
Seitokai No Ichizon: Satori Mahiru – never teaches a class.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: Naruko Yokoshima – aggressively seeks out younger boys even if it includes the school’s male students.

The journalist
Somehow they don’t seem to like the student council and often would do write and publish scandalous stuff that would be open to misunderstanding.
Seitokai No Ichizon: Lilicia Toudou.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: Ranko Hata.

Siblings
Seitokai No Ichizon: Shiina and Mafuyu are sisters as with Lilicia and Elise.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: Tsuda has a younger sister, Kotomi.

Comedy/Joke type
Seitokai No Ichizon: Mainly on parodies of cultural and anime references.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: Mainly sexual innuendos.

The pervert
Seitokai No Ichizon: As the only guy in the series, he loves playing eroge and H-game as a step towards his harem goal but is often shot down and reprimanded by the other girls.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: Ironically, it is the girls here who have perverted thinking. They include Shino, Aria and Yokoshima. They have a tendency to think in a perverted way though their intentions may be good and often their sex gags are often shot down by Tsuda.

What the student council spend most of their time doing
Seitokai No Ichizon: Idling around in the room doing nothing but chatting away with empty talk that do not bring any good to the school.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: Doing their best to improve the welfare of the school though most of them seemed like perverted suggestions.

The president’s words
Seitokai No Ichizon: In almost every episode, Kurimu would write a cool statement on the whiteboard about the need to change and move forward but nobody else pays attention so she herself loses interest and returns to her kiddie ways.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: At the start of every episode, Shino will announce the number rule for Ousai Academy while Suzu blows the whistle and Aria beats the little drum in the background. The rules make no sense whatsoever and sometimes sound perverted prompting comebacks and rebuking from Tsuda.

Deadpan voice
Seitokai No Ichizon: Mafuyu – at times when she is being dark.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: Hata.

Field trip
Seitokai No Ichizon: In episode 7, the entire student council members take a summer trip to Tokyo.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: In episode 3, Shino and Aria’s grade take a school field trip to Kyoto.

Swimsuit episode
Seitokai No Ichizon: In episode 5, to beat the summer heat, the girls wear their swimsuit in the room but unfortunately perverted Sugisaki is blindfolded.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: In episode 6, the girls go shop for their swimsuit so in episode 7 they head to the beach for some fun.

Spring cleaning episode
Seitokai No Ichizon: In episode 10, the gang did a cleanup in their room after a large number of items are placed there and to sort it out.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: In episode 11, it’s that time for the gang to do some spring cleaning for their little room.

School cultural festival for the student council
Seitokai No Ichizon: In episode 10, the gang did a Power Rangers-like play.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: In episode 10, they enter the events separately like Aria in a (screwed up) play and Suzu participating in a haunted house.

Ill episode
Seitokai No Ichizon: In episode 11, Sugisaki fell sick so the girls pay him a visit later.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: In episode 5, Tsuda fell sick after lending his umbrella to Shino and walked home in the rain. Shino felt guilty and pays him a visit.

Fictional characters
Seitokai No Ichizon: Minatsu’s fantasizing of Echo of Death as Sugisaki’s elder brother and Mafuyu’s Nakameguro.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: Who the hell is this sailor George guy and how the heck did he end up in Tsuda’s article?

The stamp
Seitokai No Ichizon: The stamp Kurimu stamps to approve or reject on her paperwork. She goes into trauma each time ‘pettanko’ is mentioned because it also means flat chest.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: The stamp appears as comebacks during scene changers.

Episode format
Seitokai No Ichizon: A whole episode each.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: Divided into 3 segments.

Episode title
Seitokai No Ichizon: Each title is named on the actions and current state of the student council in that episode.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: Each title is taken after a speech or quote line in that episode. It may or may not have any relevance to the plot of that episode.

Number of episodes
Seitokai No Ichizon: 12 episodes.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: 13 episodes.

Opening and ending themes
Seitokai No Ichizon: An opening theme called Treasure sung by the seiyuus of the student council girls. There are 12 ending themes, each with a different title and lyrics though the tune may sound the same.
Seitokai Yakuindomo: An opening theme called Yamato Nadeshiko Education sung by the seiyuus of the student council girls. There is only 1 ending theme, Aoi Haru by Angela.

Conclusion
Hmm… It’s hard for me to choose which one I prefer most since both have their own quirks and lovable in their own ways. Seitokai No Ichizon sees the close knit relationship between the main characters simply because there aren’t any other characters. Seitokai Yakuindomo may have more characters and due to the nature of the clips that are sometimes short and unrelated, it felt that they weren’t delved in too deeply. Some may not like Seitokai No Ichizon because it is mainly gag jokes and nothing but talking and talking so if you’re not familiar with cultural references and parodies, you may not understand the jokes. Likewise some may not like Seitokai Yakuindomo due to its excessive sex jokes in almost every line and some may even feel offended though they put in some censorship. I like Seitokai No Ichizon for its fun interaction between the characters and Seitokai Yakuindomo for the spontaneous jokes. So the former may have earned the nickname of the Idling Student Council for not doing anything much and the latter as the Perverted Student Council for their distorted thinking. I once brood over why discipline members aren’t part of the seitokai and are a separate entity. Perhaps considering the contrasting behaviour of the seitokai members, they’ll be loggerheads. It won’t be right to jump the gun by thinking what kind of school this is based on the nature of the seitokai but with these kids in charge of the students’ welfare, we better be careful. After all, we are entitled to our own discretion, suggestions and opinions.

Shinrayku! Ika Musume

July 16, 2011

Remember all that old Hollywood movies about aliens wanting to destroy or conquer all of humanity? But closer to the anime side, remember that frog-like alien who tried to invade our planet Earth with his platoon but failed so miserably so much so he ended up being a subject of slavery and ridicule from the very humans he is supposed to rule over? What is this fascination of ruling over humanity? Hell, I don’t know what their ultimate goal is as long as they bring in the laughs. This time, we don’t have aliens trying to invade humanity but a creature closer to home. A creature from the sea. That’s right. The plot of Shinryaku! Ika Musume may be similar to what aliens want with our planet but instead of domination of the universe or self-glorification, the reason is much simpler.

We humans have been polluting the sea in the name of development and advancement of technology ever since who knows when. So much so a particular sea creature, a squid, can’t take it anymore and would like to teach humans a lesson by invading them. That sounds scary, right? Better learn to respect the sea and recycle your wastes. However it isn’t an army of squid that is invading. Just a squid girl. For easier reference, we call her Ika (that’s ‘squid’ in Japanese). She’s mad that humans have been dumping their wastes into the ocean floor and is about time she teaches us Homo Sapiens to toe the line. All this seems fine until you find out that Ika herself is a rather naive and gullible squid taking a human form of a little girl. Instead of advancing in her invading plans, she gets invaded herself! No different with that green frog, eh? But that is where the fun is. Ika is so cute in just about anything, you can’t help but fawn at all her blunders so much so you’d cheer her on to keep pushing forward with her invasion. And fail. Call me a sadist but that is the very essence of why this show is funny and cute (and probably a hit with many of the viewers out there).

Mix in a bunch of other crazy supporting characters, Ika’s mission of invading humanity seems like a distant dream. She’d be having a hard time even coping with herself. Aww… Don’t fret, Ika. We all still love you. Just as long as you keep up with your cute blunders. Oops. Each episode is divided into 3 parts and sometimes they are independent of each other. In the sense that you don’t really have to see some of them in chronological order as they don’t bear any subsequent impact on future episodes but it is best to see them in order just to keep tabs as you learn the colourful characters and how they grow. Especially Ika. She’s the new moe in town…

Episode 1A: Won’t You Invade?
Ika arrives at the nearest beach restaurant, Lemon and proclaims to everyone there about her plans to invade humanity. Like hell they’ll believe a little cosplay girl. Just ignore her. She is summoned by Eiko Aizawa (Lemon’s manager and staff) about her obnoxious act. She asks what the heck she is doing and Ika tells about her invasion plans. Sighs… Since they’re busy, she tells her to come back and play later. Ika actually believes her and did so! First blunder that tells you she isn’t going to make it. Then when Ika realizes she’s been fooled, she stomps right back to assert her authority but is made by Chizuru (Eiko’s older sister who also works at Lemon) to serve the food and drinks to customer. Why the heck did she oblige in the first place? Upon realizing her blunder again, she confronts Eiko and throws a tantrum since Eiko doesn’t really believe her (who would?). Eiko even gives her a pep talk about needing an army to invade! Is she even up to the task? Ika tries to kill a mosquito but couldn’t so this has Eiko laughing her butt off that she can’t even squish a bug. Upset Ika decides to show her true power by using her multi-purpose tentacles (in the form of her hair) but she breaks Lemon’s wall. Because of that, she is made to work as a Lemon worker to pay for the wall. So yeah. When is her invasion plan going to get started? At least her tentacles can be of good use to serve the customers.

Episode 1B: Aren’t You My Comrade?
As Ika continues to slave, er, I mean work, she felt someone staring at her. Turns out to be Takeru (Eiko and Chizuru’s little brother) pulling her tentacle and taking a fascination with her. Ika uses this chance to show who the boss is but it ends up making more fun for Takeru. He decides to play along and call her ‘boss’ and be her lackey. Of course Ika realizes she can’t be wasting her time on a kid and goes off without him. Takeru creates a cap to match Ika’s and she really gets fooled thinking he’s her comrade from the sea! Then he makes his tentacles via paper and uses the fan to move it and that was convincing enough for Ika! Till Takeru’s cap flew off that Ika thought he died! Saddened by his ‘death’, she throws the cap back floating into the sea.

Episode 1C: Am I Not The Strongest?
Ika thinks how Chizuru is different from the rest since she is kind unlike that violent sister. As Ika helps out, she accidentally sneezes and covers Chizuru all over with her black squid ink. Chizuru didn’t get mad but tastes the ink to be quite delicious. Ika gets frightened with the thought that people actually eat spaghetti with squid ink. Then she realizes that there is no customers on a rainy day and decides to use this opportunity to conquer this beach house and make it as her base. She binds Eiko with her tentacles. Takeru thinks she is having fun by herself so he too gets tied up. Now it’s Chizuru’s turn. As Ika tries to wrap her tentacles, Chizuru swiftly avoids each strike and chops each tentacle! Woah! She’s closing in real fast! Then with the scariest look that could even make a ghost run away in fear of their lives (yeah, how ironic if you think about it), she tells Ika not to fool around in the house. Ika is becomes extremely fearful and goes down on her knees to beg for forgiveness! Don’t play play with her, man! Chizuru returns to her normal self and wants Ika to spurt her squid ink. The next day, it becomes a hit item on the menu. Poor Ika got exploited and she’s real dry by now.

Episode 2A: Aren’t You My Comrade?
Note that episode 1B and episode 2A’s title may be the same in English because in Japanese, ‘dohou’ and ‘nakama’ means the same thing. Lifeguard Gorou Arashiyama saves Ika from drowning. WTF?! A squid drowning?! Apparently her tentacles got cramped. But even so, a squid drowning? Well, she did mention about spending too much time on land till she forgot how to swim. WTF?! Gorou patrons Lemon and his body language indicates he likes Chizuru. Ika thinks it is a sign he fears her. But Gorou and Ika quickly click because they both proclaim that they are protectors of the sea. Gorou takes Ika and Takeru on a tour on what he does as a lifeguard. Then Ika climbs up his lifeguard seat and tells everyone to bow down before her. This causes and argument with Gorou. All partnerships are off. Later Gorou dives in to save a drowning kid. Ika takes this chance to teach him a lesson as she hooks on to his feet. With time running out, he tells her to save that girl. In no time, the girl’s mother thanks Ika for her courageous act and since Gorou didn’t go down on his knees thanking her for saving him, she gets upset and considers him her enemy for now on.

Episode 2B: Won’t You Celebrate?
Ika learns about celebrating birthdays. She proclaims today her birthday and throws a tantrum that she wants a birthday party. Chizuru gives the green light. Ika gets excited on the stuff the gang brings but Eiko tells her to stay put till they have finished preparing. Curiosity got the better of her when she tries to eavesdrop their conversation. From what she digests, she thinks they’re setting a trap to eat her! She gets freaked out when Eiko calls her but eventually comes out as the gang starts the celebration. Then she puts lots of candles on the cake but can’t blow a single one out till she goes out of breath and collapses. Then she blows till hard till her squid ink covers the entire cake. Then when they play sparklers, she gets frightened by it. Once she gets used to it, a bigger fireworks display is seen in the night sky as they all watch and admire it. Ika is looking forward to next month’s birthday till she learns it is only once a year. Where’s the fun in that?

Episode 2C: Won’t You Play?
Eiko’s friend, Sanae Nagatsuki comes over with her pet dog, Alex. Ika becomes afraid of Alex because it keeps biting her tentacles. Then Ika gets upset that Eiko still showers Alex with affection since it was the one in the wrong and dislikes this unfair treatment. Her answer? Because Alex is cuter! I disagree! Ika demands to be treated the same so they put a dog leash on her. Hey, that counts, right? Doesn’t feel the same, eh? Sanae seems to be fascinated with Ika. Then Eiko and Ika pay a visit to Sanae’s home. As Eiko takes Alex out for a walk, Sanae brings Ika to her room. She is shown a few photo collection of Ika. Oh sh*t! Sanae is a scary stalker!!! She wants Ika to help her complete her ‘collection’. Double sh*t! Ika is made to dress up in several outfits while Sanae snaps away happily. Then Eiko gets this feeling Sanae is in danger and rushes back only to see her in control of Ika. So won’t you come and play again, Ika? Better think twice. That’s because obsessed Sanae prints out the photos and starts fawning over them. Ika in school uniform? A nurse outfit? Maid? Swimsuit? Sanae is indeed scary… When Ika comments how there are lots of weird people around her, Eiko knocks her head that she is the one to talk. A pot calling the kettle black.

Episode 3A: Aren’t You Afraid?
Takeru gets freaked out upon watching a summer ghost report. However Ika isn’t scared seeing that she doesn’t know what a ghost is. Eiko organizes a test-of-courage and has Gorou and Sanae tag along. Gorou seems like a chicken unless Chizuru is around (which she isn’t). As they walk through the graveyard, Sanae tries to get Ika scared so she could hug her but ends up scaring the rest. Then Ika gets separated so she illuminates herself (squids have this natural ability) to find her way out. When she sees the rest, she tries to go over to them but all they see is a ghost and run for their lives! Have they ever run so fast in their lives before? Ika is then surrounded by real ghosts. Dead samurais and surfers? She isn’t afraid as they lead out to the ocean. Ika waves goodbye and thinks there are good humans in this world. Next day as Ika laments how everyone was cruel to leave her behind, the rest are discussing about the ghost pic (Ika) that Sanae took with her handphone. Yeah, there’s no such thing as ghosts as Ika said.

Episode 3B: Aren’t You My Natural Enemy?
Ika has been working at Lemon for some time now but the wall still isn’t fixed yet. How low are they paying her?! Wait. Are they even paying her?! Heck, she makes a good slave. As Ika accompanies Takeru to swim in the ocean, she tells him about the pecking order in the sea. Then she spots her natural enemy: A killer whale. Actually it’s just a floatable but Ika is paralyzed by fear how the children are ‘controlling’ it. Plus, there are lots more ‘killer whales’ nearby. Ika’s tentacles accidentally cut Takeru’s float and nearly causes him to drown but luckily Gorou dives in to save him. Useless Ika… Gorou and Ika decide to teach him how to swim. Of course Ika’s methods aren’t for humans because she uses her tentacles and holding her breath for a very long time. They mock her so she goes off alone. Before she knows it, she is surrounded by floatables of her natural enemies. Yeah, panic time again. She swims underwater to avoid them all. On shore, she sees Takeru holding a ‘killer whale’ and freaks out. Later she learns they’re all just floats and gets upset nobody told her. Yeah, didn’t even notice it herself…

Episode 3C: Aren’t You New?
Surfer girl Nagisa Saitou is the new part time worker at Lemon. When she sees Ika, she starts fearing her though Eiko persists that she is ‘harmless’. However Nagisa still fears her so Ika starts feeling good that this is the way all humans should feel towards her. Ika tries to use Nagisa as her first invasion but each time thwarted by Eiko. Nagisa continues to be wary of Ika as she observes her actions. Then she starts getting this whacked idea that everyone here is weird and doesn’t understand the real situation. She decides to continue working here to be the common sense and wake everyone up. Of course this means more chance for Ika to pressure her and put forth her agenda. Eiko knows she’s on one of her scare tactics so she tells Nagisa to put a shrimp bait. Though she doesn’t believe anyone would fall for it, Ika actually does! This proves she’s just a squid. Nagisa isn’t convinced and still considers her tentacles a dreadful weapon. Ika is relieved to hear those words and sees her as an angel and hope for invading mankind. She jumps to hug her as Nagisa impulsively hits her away. Even so, Ika is having that happy smirk on her face.

Episode 4A: Won’t You Buy It?
Ika finds a lost wallet while cleaning up the beach and was given a 10,000 Yen bill as reward for returning it. She is in a dilemma of what to buy. Power? Dream on. Eiko suggests Nagisa to accompany Ika to town in hopes their relationship will improve but Nagisa remains fearful that she may be trying to steal inventions or intelligence. Sanae spots Ika and Nagisa and gets upset the squid girl is with someone else other than her. When did she become her property? Ika uses her entire reward money to buy shrimps from the supermarket. She must really love them. After Ika gulps down everything in her satisfaction, Chizuru points out how that money could’ve easily repaired the wall and free her. Shimatta! What a wasted opportunity! Ika then receives a large package from Sanae. A letter indicates it is top quality shrimp and wants Ika to enjoy it alone. Eh? Alone? As Ika opens the box, she finds a large shrimp. Erm… Why is it breathing heavily? Yeah, she lost her appetite and seals it off to the garbage section. You don’t want to know the trouble if you ‘eat’ that big shrimp (has to be desperate Sanae in a shrimp outfit lah). Nagisa concludes that there is something definitely wrong with everybody here. I agree. But we love it.

Episode 4B: Won’t You Intrude?
When Lemon closes, the siblings return home so Ika uses this chance to invade the beach house. However the TV broke and the fridge is tightly chained in anticipation of her sneaky shrimp snacking. She plays with the bottle of seasonings and mixes them up. Next morning, they give her some grapes but see the mess she has made. Because of that, Chizuru decides to let Ika stay in their house. Don’t worry, her dark aura will keep that squid in line. She joins them in doing things like watching TV and brushing teeth till it’s bedtime. Feeling bored, she goes into Takeru’s room to play but he is sleeping like a log. She wanted to go into Chizuru’s room next but something tells her she shouldn’t open the door. Yeah, better not. Next she enters Eiko’s but finds it boring and sleeps on the floor. When Eiko wakes up in the morning, she finds herself sleeping on the floor and Ika on her bed! Worse, her tentacles are all wrapped around her and Ika is sleep talking wanting to eat Eiko! Argh!

Episode 4C: Aren’t You A Fake?
As Eiko and Ika stroll along the beach, they see kids fascinating with a fake Ika. Her big head is hideous. However Ika isn’t upset. She’s afraid. WTF?! They learn that this is an attraction thought up by another beach house owner, Minamikaze, seeing how popular Ika is. The fake Ika is his daughter, Ayumi Tokita. He suggests that they trade each other’s ‘Ika’ but Eiko refuses. Then he challenges her to a match to take each other’s ‘mask’ off whereby if Eiko wins, he’ll give her 10,000 Yen. It’s on! Ayumi’s fake Ika head malfunctions (freaking out Ika a lot) so she returns with another hideous one. The rematch resumes at Lemon and it seems the hideous mask is scaring customers. However Owner says that isn’t her strong point but rather in the kitchen. The mask is laced with hi-tech equipment to precisely cut vegetables, spew various seasonings (though it may look horrible) and a fire for barbeque. The mask catches fire and Ayumi’s face is revealed for the first time. She’s quite a pretty person! The guys are taken in by her beauty. Eiko isn’t happy that Owner is trying to burn her shop down but he brushes it off as a mistake and will be back.

Episode 5A: Aren’t You An Alien?
A hot blonde babe, Cindy Campbell patrons Lemon but she’s not ordering the usual items on the menu. She wants an alien. After spotting Ika, she forcefully takes Ika back to her lab for analysis. Introducing herself from the US Extraterrestrial Life Form Response Research Centre, she jumps to conclusion that Ika is an alien no matter how much the squid girl insists she’s from the sea so much so it creeps her out. Cindy continues to bug Ika and even tries to persuade her that she is an alien to begin with! Now Ika is acting like an alien big shot and thinks all those mysteries of the world like crop circles are her doing. However she is still treated the same. Like a slave. Then Chizuru brings out a sumptuous shrimp dish but mentions that aliens don’t eat shrimp and eat cow or pig and suck their blood (yuck). This causes Ika to return back to her squid self as she gulps down the dish. Cindy isn’t pleased that her brainwashing wasn’t effective when Chizuru says that they can’t hand Ika to her because as Eiko pointed, she is THEIR valuable slave! Aww, no one is on Ika’s side. Cindy backs down for now but will not give up till she admits she is an alien.

Episode 5B: Won’t You Go To School?
Eiko forbids Ika to follow her to school. Imagine the havoc she’ll bring. However she manages to slip out and enter school. As she sneaks around, based on her observations, she thinks this is a human’s military base due to the same uniform, science lab (developing secret weapons?) and the computer room (for hacking?). Then she enters the principal’s room and thinks this belongs to the leader. Frolicking around till the principal returns, she decides to ‘defeat’ him. She ties him up and announces via PA about her success. Eiko’s fears come true as she rushes all the way there to bring that squid girl back down to her place. On the way home, Ika learns that this is an ordinary school and says how she wants to attend one.

Level 5C: Won’t You Keep It?
An episode that lacks monologue for the most part of it, we see how Eiko found chibi Ika trapped in a bottle one rainy day during her stroll on the bridge. Eiko keeps her as a pet and though Ika is pretty much afraid of her new environment, Eiko interacts with her till Ika becomes friendly enough to trust her. They spend lots of quality time together all through the seasons as Eiko watches in glee Ika in her natural behaviour. This heart warming relationship goes on till Eiko now an old lady lies on her deathbed while Ika remains unchanged. Eiko is happy and has no regrets till she breaths her final breath, leaving poor Ika in tears. Then it is revealed to be Sanae’s dream and she is bloody upset that Eiko was in it instead of her. Sicko…

Episode 6A: Isn’t It A Hero Show?
Takeru and Ika attend a Mask Rider play intended for kids at the beach. Noh Mask Rider is the heroine but Ika is laughing till her stomach hurts. Squid Devil as the baddie then appears. Everyone is to cheer for the heroine but Ika cheers for the baddie. The kids think that the baddie is also cool so they root for Squid Devil. The play temporarily takes a break as the crew contemplates on how the turn out will be. Before they know it, Squid Devil’s costume is stolen. Seems Ika has taken it as she goes on stage for her victory. The kids cheer her on which brings a pleasant ring to her ears. Then another Mask Rider, Han Nya appears. Both sides attack but Han Nya is swift and Ika recognizes a familiar voice that strikes fear in her heart. She loses as the kids cheer for the hero. Back home as Takeru and Ika watch the Noh Mask Rider series, Takeru notes that there is no such Han Nya character and perhaps only appears in that play. Ika gets this feeling it may have been Chizuru… Oh, you don’t know…

Episode 6B: Won’t You Study?
Eiko is having a tough time studying maths. However Ika can answer them with ease! Not wanting to believe that a squid is better than her, she tests her (including tough university level questions) and all her answers are correct! Not even cheating! She’s a genius! Chizuru suggests Ika to teach her. Like hell her pride will allow that so much so she snaps. Eiko thinks for the better of her future and wants Ika to teach her so Ika now gets arrogant. Eiko has to swallow her pride and do all the work that she once bossed Ika around. Getting a taste of her own medicine, eh? Just hold it in there… Ika decides to use her maths genius to invade humanity but it is either they get scared of her (Nagisa) or too hard-up for it (Sanae and Cindy). Eiko talks to Ika and understands the loneliness of being a genius and manages to convince her to teach her how to score in her test. Seems it turns out to be squid scribble so Eiko gets mad and wants Ika to give her back her lost pride. Well, ordinary beings can’t understand the works of a genius, right?

Episode 6C: Isn’t It Love?
Gorou saves Nagisa from drowning and starts to develop feelings for him. Later she realizes it was Ika who was responsible for creating those dangerous waves. The usual Ika scare, the usual Nagisa scared, the usual Eiko beat up. Nagisa concludes that everyone is brainwashed by Ika. Then Ika notices Nagisa getting friendly with everyone and fears of losing her only ‘prey’ and sounds her warning. Eiko thinks Ika is jealous of Gorou so Nagisa asks the lifeguard what he thinks of Ika. Ika shuts him up not wanting him to say anything that will ruin her dignity as an invader. The argument continues as Nagisa realizes that Gorou must have been brainwashed too. She also notes that Gorou is the last defender for the sea and if she doesn’t bring him back to his senses, it’s the end of the world. She goes back and faces Ika and tries to put up a brave front that she’s not afraid of her again but Ika hugs her and says she doesn’t have to pretend. Nagisa sends her flying metres away from Lemon. Eiko concludes an interesting love polygon: Ika likes Nagisa who likes Gorou who likes Chizuru. But she doesn’t want it to get more complicated when Sanae comes by. Oh, it is that complicated already.

Episode 7A: Won’t You Get Targeted?
Nagisa is relieved that the squid menace isn’t present today and hopes every day should’ve been like this. Eiko invites her to her home for dinner and to her dismay sees Ika there. Another conclusion that Ika has kidnapped and brainwashed them all. But she gets determined to protect the siblings and request to sleep here for the night after dinner. Nagisa pretends to sleep and in the wee hours of the morning, spots Ika getting up and follows her to see what her nefarious plans are. Turns out she is playing video games. Next morning, Nagisa feels sleepy due to lack of sleep so when Eiko learns of Ika’s midnight exploit, she punishes her as Ika thinks Nagisa ratted her out. Nagisa continues to further analyze that she’s the only one who fears Ika, if all this is part of her grand scheme so the next day, Nagisa puts up a good act that she is not afraid of Ika. Ika falls into shock and depression so Eiko goes talk to her and to get along with Nagisa. Soon Ika meets Nagisa and is willing to shake hands and be friends but Nagisa loses her cool and apologizes for acting. Yeah, she’s back to her fearful self. So what to do? Return back to the good ol’ times lah.

Episode 7B: Won’t You Research?
Another pestering from Cindy to go to her lab so Ika reflects on herself as she should be the queen. Takeru decides to play along and be her subordinate as they go search for more ‘servants’. They got Gorou after blackmailing him with pictures of Chizuru. Soon Cindy also joins in with a condition that if she becomes Ika’s servant, she must go to her lab. Eiko finds Ika and is going to forcefully bring her back to work so Ika orders her subordinates to hold her down. But enough of horsing around. It’s time for Ika to live up to her end. Eiko and Ika follow Cindy back to their nearby lab and meet her scientist colleagues, Harris, Clark and Martin. They are all top MIT graduates of xenoarchaeology. Since they couldn’t find any aliens, they got ahead of themselves by inventing stuff for aliens but ended up creating a cure for cancer, a way to learn large amount of human languages simultaneously. Seriously, what wasted talents. They created inventions for the good of mankind instead. Successful failure? They beg to Ika that they want to research on her as an alien but she insists she isn’t. Then they ask her to say “I am an alien” ten times. Apparently they have recorded it on tape and are happy they got her ‘confession’ evidence! Ika wants to get back at them and tells them to say “I am your slave”. So who are they? They replied their names! Hey, they are MIT graduates and won’t fall for such idiotic tricks. Haha! Poor Ika got owned as they hysterically laugh their ass off.

Episode 7C: Won’t You Work?
Eiko and Chizuru tell off Gorou’s lifeguard colleague as he is trying to hit on Ayumi. They take her back to Lemon as she agrees to temporarily work for them. Ayumi’s cuteness attracts a large crowd of guys. Owner is also there so he wants to exchange Ika for this. They agree since Ayumi is bringing in more sales than the squid. Haha, it’s all about the money. Back in Minamikaze, Ika is made to stand at the entrance doing nothing as a poster girl. She gets bored and tries some advertising to attract customers but was being told off by Owner that by doing so they may have not enough places and may make the customers wait. He changes her role to entertain on stage. Ika delights the crowd with her performance using her squid abilities. Eiko, Chizuru and Ayumi are done for the day and head over to Minamikaze to check how Ika is doing. She is wowing the crowd with her drum skills! But Ika is disheartened because she realizes she is good in everything except invading. So true!

Episode 8A: Aren’t You Sick?
Ika is sick so much so she carelessly shaves away part of her tentacles. No matter how annoying she was as a failed invader, this even breaks the heart of the rest. No mood to tease. First they try to treat her summer fatigue like having a hot bath, then a cold one or running via bicycle but it just worsens her condition. Then Ika says she has some unpronounceable disease that squids have (does it even exists?). This disease makes her crave for shrimp. How is it different than her normal days? She will eat shrimp till she dies! Ika starts throwing tantrum that she wants to eat shrimp so Eiko tries her best giving her things that sound like puns of shrimp. Haha, it’s not even funny. At least to Ika. Ika’s symptom is worsening as she says she’ll rather die eating shrimp than have none. Eiko has no choice but to call her secret weapon. That is, Sanae dressed up in that giant shrimp outfit. Ika can’t really tell the difference so she munches away in happiness. Same with Sanae. A win-win situation, eh? Yeah, she feels like she’s of good use to Ika now. Ika feels better now and wants to return to her normal diet shrimp but she gets more than she bargains for when Sanae comes pestering to eat her. Yeah, back to normal.

Episode 8B: Isn’t It A New Ability?
Takeru and his friend, Yuuta are building a sand castle. Ika mocks theirs and shows hers, which looks like a dung. Yuuta continues to mock those useless fins on Ika’s head. As everyone wonders what it is, Ika herself gets shocked that it is flapping on its own. Another new ability? Well, it did slapped Sanae good when she gets too close. They discuss its other use as Ika mentions it is to fly (really? Squids fly?). Well at least it is a useful mosquito repellent. Ika and Yuuta argue again so they showcase their sand castles. Then Yuuta’s dad steps in to show off his skills to create a majestic castle. He’s a professional sculptor by the way. Can you beat that? However Ika seem to have the last laugh as her dung castle shocks everyone by moving and destroying Yuuta’s dad’s castle! He sinks into depression and decides to go on a training journey. Ika gloats in her victory as everyone else leaves. But Ika realizes she can’t move or else her ‘masterpiece’ will fall apart since it is her tentacles that is holding it together (and moving it just now) from underneath. Yeah, stay there forever.

Episode 8C: Won’t You Use It?
On a rainy day, Eiko takes Ika out to buy some stuff. Ika has never seen an umbrella and is fascinated of what it can do. Since she is fooling around, she is made to wait outside. She plays with her new ‘partner’ and observes other passers-by opening their umbrellas, much to her amazement. Yeah, even getting carried away to daydream about invading humanity with an umbrella. She then starts balancing a can while rotating her umbrella. This attracts a crowd as they are impressed with her performance till a wind blows the umbrella into a path of a lorry and crushes it. She becomes distraught at the ‘death’ of her ‘partner’ and blames herself. When Eiko finishes her shopping, she sees Ika crying with the broken umbrella but offers to share hers as they walk home.

Episode 9A: Won’t You Play With The Bell?
Ika catches Yuuta and Takeru playing ding-dong ditch. She tries one herself as part of her invasion plan but backfires when Chizuru passes by. A lie leads to another as she tries to hide her act by claiming she knows the person who lives in this house. Worst case scenario happens when that girl, Kiyomi Sakura returns so Ika quickly takes her away to the park. Ika apologizes and explains her reasoning for doing so. But Kiyomi doesn’t want to pretend to be her friend. She really wants to get to know her. They become friends in no time and one day Ika brings Kiyomi back to Eiko’s home to play video games. However Ika’s mind starts going wild as every action Chizuru and Eiko do she misinterprets as some sort of warning and that she’ll receive a punishment later for bringing a friend home unauthorized. I’m even wondering if Chizuru’s scary face is intentional or just Ika’s imagination. Ika can’t take it anymore and panics, proclaiming that she’ll always be best friends with Kiyomi and is ready to receive her punishment. Of course the sisters don’t know what she’s talking about.

Episode 9B: Do You Want Make-up?
Ika is introduced to lipstick. What do you think that means to Sanae? Another crazy hugging spree. In order to stop that maniac stalker, Ika throws her lipstick into the ocean in which desperate Sanae swims after. Good riddance.  When Sanae finally gets the lipstick, she realizes she has been had because it is a just seal. But she still loves her. Hey, isn’t that Easter Islands she swam to? She won’t be back for a while. Ika puts on heavy make-up but Eiko isn’t too pleased and wipes it off her face. I’m not sure why Ika had to ask Gorou for advice for some invader make-up. Huh? Later the girls try putting on some make-up but Ika returns with a heavy make-up. She looks like an African tribe. The girls see how cute Takeru is when he puts on some. It occurred to Ika that she can’t get her make-up off because she used permanent markers.

Episode 9C: Isn’t It A Secret Weapon?
Another usual fight over Ika between Cindy, Sanae and Eiko. Yeah, everyone has their ulterior motives. Cindy’s ambiguous rant of making Ika do ambiguous stuff on her sends Sanae into jealousy and wants Ika to do the same to her too. I think Sanae’s a masochist because she enjoys getting beaten up by her tentacles. Yes, she is. Cindy’s colleagues visit Lemon and they are introduced to the rest. Clark has an invention that will make a person invisible. Sanae wants to buy it no matter the cost. Why is she nose bleeding? Anyway Clark is going to give a little test on Ika but since she got scared, she’d rather do it herself. Of course she can’t and zaps the watermelon as it vaporizes! Are they trying to kill her?! Nagisa somewhat feels relief. They’re going to have another go at the ray gun as Harris points at Martin. As he pulls the trigger, Martin changes his mind and ducks, resulting in the entire Lemon shop being vaporized. While the scientists are revelling in joy of their success, a dark aura is emitting from Chizuru. Oh sh*t! You just made her mad! No matter what barrier they put up, Chizuru swiftly cuts through all of them and even their clothes, leaving them stark naked! OMG! The terror she is! The scientists get down on their knees and beg for forgiveness. Chizuru returns to her nice self and lets this slip by since they understood the implications. Nagisa fears that the true threat to mankind may not be a squid by her! Maybe. Very maybe.

Episode 10A: Isn’t It Teruteru Bouzu?
Because it’s raining, Takeru can’t go out to complete his sketch assignment. He makes a Teruteru Bouzu doll as Ika learns the meaning of doing so. Takeru uses Ika as a model but she can’t keep still that long. Then Ika shows it how it’s done and what do you know? She has a talent in drawing? Pretty damn good! However, the realism of the picture she draws depends on how she sees that person like Chizuru a demon, Eiko a robot on terror, Nagisa an angel, Sanae a crowd of ravaging zombies and Takeru a plain guy. Takeru manages to sketch a portrait of Ika and it turns out very manga-like. As they make Teruteru Bouzus, Ika makes horrible and scary ones because she thinks they shouldn’t be smiling as they’re being hung from their neck. She decides to become one and stands by the window smiling all day. But the rain didn’t go away. Not wanting to ruin his childhood innocence, that night Ika goes into his room dressed as a horrible and scary looking Teruteru Bouzu, frightening Takeru so much that he wet his bed! Yeah, even if the raining outside stops, it didn’t inside.

Episode 10B: Won’t You Be Loved?
Annoying Sanae continues to chase after Ika the usual way but by this time Ika has already learned to avoid her like a reflex. Eiko tells her to stop doing so and wants her to think of it in Ika’s shoes. It is for her own good so that she and Ika could mend their relationship and wants Sanae to give her the cold shoulder treatment. Sanae reluctantly takes up her advice and greets Ika the normal way. Sanae even has to deal with the withdrawal symptoms of not having any pictures of Ika so much so it is killing her! She destroys all of the cosplay clothes, deletes tons of images from her picture and even starts hallucinating of Ika. This is serious. She’s like a zombie now. Ika is suspicious of her unusual act at first but as time passes, she gradually opens up to her as they even do stuff together without the squid girl going on the alert. One morning, Ika pats her shoulder and greets her good morning. For the first time, Sanae felt she is no longer hated by Ika. Eiko is relieved that she is able to approach Ika normally. However Sanae feels something is missing and she is not satisfied as before. Without thinking, she lets herself loose and goes to hug Ika. This ends her up getting punched for good but she is happy. Yeah, a masochist indeed. After all that hard work, it’ll be tough to regain Ika’s trust again. But no matter because she looks contented.

Episode 10C: Won’t You Play Baseball?
Kiyomi requests the help of Ika to fill in as a baseball player since their pitcher is sick. Ika seems to be a klutz so the opposing team thinks they’re going to win big time with that kind of amateur play. Kiyomi’s team makes a bad start with Ika fumbling around. But things take an interesting turn when her tentacles do the job (all this while she was using her hands). Nobody can beat Ika’s pitching so when it is her final turn to bat, she scores a remarkable homerun. The ball just flew straight out of the field into the ocean! Wow! Must be a world record. Kiyomi’s team win as the opposing team admits defeat. Kiyomi tells them that Ika isn’t really part of their team but the opposing team is happy. Why? Because they’re asking her to part of their team! With her, they can make it to the Nationals! Brings back memories of Sanae and Cindy’s pestering, eh? She gets scared that more people want to own her so she gives an excuse that she’s busy invading and makes a run for it. Yeah, everybody wants to have a squid girl!

Episode 11A: Isn’t It A Doll?
A horror-like episode without the usual gags. Eiko finds a doll she kept locked away. It freaks out Ika because it looks hideous and old. I thought it was Chuck…  Eiko puts it in her room and Ika can’t sleep since the doll, Depp is staring at her. She turns it towards the window but the next morning, finds that the doll faces back in! Creepy… Worse, Eiko didn’t touch it! Oh shi… Then one morning Ika is given a frightening wakeup call when Depp speaks “Good morning”. However it is revealed to have a talking function. As Eiko chats with Eiko about the doll, they wonder about the other doll because it comes as a pair called Johnny and Depp. Wait a minute? Johnny Depp? Any relation to that Jack Sparrow pirate? Another point is, Johnny is the girl. Huh? Realizing it has some magnetic thingy that causes it to rotate to the direction of the other doll, they go find it in the store room and to their horror really find it in a messed up condition so much so it really scares the daylight out of everyone! For everyone’s good, they are placed in a shrine. Getting goosebumps… Hey wait a minute. I thought Ika doesn’t believe in ghosts? Maybe it’s because she can see it this why she fears it?

Episode 11B: Isn’t It Doubtful?
Cindy’s new target now isn’t Ika but Chizuru after that awesome display of mysterious powers few episodes ago. As part of her plans to get her hair or blood sample, Harris goes in perfectly with an invisible suit, freaking out Eiko and Ika as a ghost. As he is about to take Chizuru’s hair, she suddenly disappears and reappears behind him and ‘warns’ that she felt something. Harris got scared and admits lost. Now it’s Clark’s turn using an artificial invisible fly that emits no buzzing sound. Another failure because Chizuru coolly smacks it! “OH MY GOD!”. It’s Martin’s turn as he takes a direct approach. Proclaiming himself as a big fan of Chizuru, he asks for her hair sample and she gladly gives it to him. That simple? This causes Eiko and Ika to be suspicious of the trio’s activities since they are targeting Chizuru and not Ika. Ika tickles them to spill the beans as Cindy reveals they think Chizuru is an alien, though it is just out of curiosity. She doesn’t mind being classified as one but warns that following what an invading alien would do, she would need to eliminate threats first. It’s that intimidating look again. Enough to send the MIT graduates down on their knees begging for forgiveness. No doubt about it. Chizuru is the strongest! Total respect!

Episode 11C: Won’t You Go Hiking?
Chizuru, Eiko, Takeru and Ika are taking a hike to the mountaintop. Understandably, Ika tires easily. Hey, squids are for swimming. She could’ve used her tentacles to swing from tree to tree but Chizuru warns of no cheating. Better listen to her… Ika gets into a little trouble of her own since the animals have this tendency to bite her tentacles as food. From squirrels to monkey to even a bear. Not to mention a king cobra. Ika faces off with the snake but sadly she lost pathetically to it. It really puts into question her invading abilities. Finally they reach the top as they admire the beautiful scenery of the town below. Ika then quarrels with her own echo. Yeah, she doesn’t understand how it works. As they stop for a picnic, Ika dreads seeing Sanae coming by but how come she looks all fresh and isn’t sweaty? Seems there is a cable car station nearby to bring visitors to the top. Ika gets upset that her struggle was all for nothing and felt deceived so in her frustration she yells to the other ‘cheaters’ that they have no right to watch the view if they don’t hike up the mountain.

Episode 12A: Won’t You Fight?
For the upcoming 18th Yugaihama Beach Volleyball tournament, Ika and Chizuru team up because they want to win a 3D TV. Everyone else also participates except Chizuru, who notes that she is everyone’s manager. Heheh. She’s the big boss. With Ika’s tentacles, their team is earning easy victories like routing Takeru-Yuuta and Sanae-Cindy (Sanae purposely getting hit by Ika’s spiking). They also earn walkovers when Harris-Martin-Clark (WTF?! A 3-man team, how is that legal?) withdraw due to Clark breaking his hand bones and Nagisa running away after thinking her partner Kiyomi maybe in cohorts with Ika to brainwash her. Owner-Ayumi’s team have a new Ika head mask but of course it malfunctions. The final pits them against the Lifesaver Team of Gorou-Isozaki. It is a tough and close match since this is Gorou’s ‘home ground’. Then as Eiko is going to receive a volley, she sprains her ankle and falls into the crowd and Chizuru’s direction. Chizuru swiftly replaces her by wearing that Han Nya mask and resumes the match. With her powerful smash that sends ripples and shockwaves (heck, even the ball exploded!), it is no doubt that Ika’s team wins. Back home with the 3D TV, Ika is puzzled she can’t eat the 3D prawn. Of course cannot lah!

Episode12B: Isn’t It A Crisis?
Horror! Suddenly Ika cannot use her tentacles! They try all sorts of techniques in hopes of getting it to move again. Including desperate measures like Sanae’s ‘shock therapy’. This is serious. An initial scan from Cindy and her MIT boys indicate that her organs are degenerating possibly due to living on the land for too long. She is also losing her other abilities like luminance, head fin and squid ink. The scientists take this as a chance to examine her thoroughly but I think Ika prefers not to be invaded personally so she runs away. Sitting alone, Ika tries to rational that she may have invaded the land personally and hopes to do some reverse psychology by returning to the sea in hopes that everyone would persuade her to stay. However it turned out quite the opposite. Nobody is surprised of her departure and even supports her to go! Even Sanae! For her own good? I guess Ika has to live up to her words so everyone sends her off. However they note that she will return. Still waiting… She’s not turning up… Still continue to wait… I think she’s serious. Waiting, waiting, waiting… Eiko’s heart is suddenly disturbed. Could it be?

Episode 12C: Isn’t It A Bigger Crisis?
Time has passed and everyone resumes their ordinary lives. I can’t believe she’s gone for good. Everything has returned to its original peace and quiet by why is everybody feeling gloomy? Probably no squid girl to bully. Suddenly that familiar thud on the table. That familiar phrase of invading mankind. That familiar white dress! Oh yes! Ika is back! Hooray! But wait. Something is different. She has her tentacles cut! OMG! It’s like she’s taken a haircut. Something about Not only that, she talks differently too. Tossing away her “~de geso” for “~da wa”. Ika Musume Mk II? Did she ‘power up’ by tossing away her tentacles since they no longer function or regenerate? But even without her tentacles, she is still able to work. She continues to help out using her 2 normal hands. Eh? What happened about the invasion plan? However Takeru is very upset because this isn’t the Ika he knew. He starts crying in Chizuru’s arms while apologizing for everything. Ika takes some time off on the beach alone. She encounters a mysterious girl, Kozue Tanabe who talks to her. Ika says she doesn’t know what to do anymore but Kozue insists that she does. And that is to follow her heart because she is not alone. She leaves when Eiko comes by as Ika returns to her talking style. Meanwhile the MIT trio are trying a machine that will explore the depths of the ocean (their new fascination?). Suddenly it goes wrong and causes a whirlpool in the sea, sucking Eiko in. Ika tries hard to save her and at that very moment, her tentacles grow back again to save Eiko from drowning. When Ika finds the idiotic trio responsible, they make a run but no matter how ridiculously far or fast, her tentacles will always catch them. They beg for forgiveness and since because of them that led to Eiko’s drowning, she managed to get her tentacles back, she lets them go. Ika looks forward to staying with them again. For once when Eiko is really going to accept her and shake her hands, Ika gets cocky by saying that she’ll throw her into the ocean again if she ever loses her powers and that she is the greatest being not only in the ocean but the world! Say that when you’ve conquer the world. Eiko gives her a deserved knock on the head. Ah, everything back to normal.

Invasion, Interrupted
Oh yeah, this has been a fun series all the way. I enjoyed every moment of it. It is funny in its own way and after watching many okay-only animes recently, this was quite a refreshing change. Though there were some parts that weren’t comedy-driven and were more of heart-warming (the chibi Ika part) and horror-filled (that creepy doll segment), otherwise you’d be cracking into a smile at almost every antic. Too bad that it is only a dozen episodes long. But fret not because I read that the second season has been given the green light! Oh yes! I couldn’t be much happier and looking forward when Ika returns and gets owned. Oops. But what the heck, everybody loves her. She’s too adorable to be passed up as an invader, don’t you think? I hope she will not succeed in her invasion so that there will be more sequels. I’m such a bad person…

If you buy the DVD, there are 2 short mini stories of Ika in chibi mode. Oh yeah. How cute can you get? Too bad they last less than 5 minutes each. In the first side story, we see Ika going to rest after Eiko goes to school. However she gets thrown out of her own little bed. Seems there is another Ika but this one is dressed in black! Double the cuteness! Well, this vagabond Black Ika seems to be mischievous. After Ika tries several times to wake her up, Black Ika asserts her authority by teasing her and so Ika starts chasing her throughout the house. Then the tables are turned as Poor Ika becomes the victim when she is made to run over crayons thrown at her, rolled over by a ball, getting chased by a remote toy truck and finally being shot at with rubber bands. Wow. She’s been through a lot. Finally Black Ika accidentally fires herself out of the window and is going to be the Dobermans’ meal but Ika uses her tentacles to save her. She is grateful and apologetic so both little squid girls have their fill of prawn crackers before Black Ika leaves for her journey. Guess what? There is no dialogue in this story! Only cute huffing and puffing from Ika. In the second side story, Ika is seen trekking through the treacherous burning desert. Well, it’s actually the sandy beach. It looks like a desert if you’re that small, right? She smells a delicious prawn being cooked by Chizuru and tries to steal it without getting noticed but her plan isn’t smooth flowing as she has to avoid getting stepped on, escape from the curious clutches of Takeru and Yuuta and yes, the mother of all nightmares: Freaky Sanae who wants a piece of her. Poor Ika takes the prawn and runs for her life but Sanae chases her down like a desperate beast, causing commotion wherever they go. When Ika is cornered and moments away from being pounded by her, the prawn suddenly comes to life and Ika is made to bow and respect it if she wants to borrow her powers for world domination. The prawn lets Ika eat her so she turns into a giant and starts stomping away! Now who is the one getting squished? Time to get her revenge on Sanae. She resigns to her fate of getting stepped on when suddenly it’s revealed that it’s just her sick fantasy of wanting to be stepped on in reality too. Of course the rest are dumbfounded at her delusion especially Ika. Sure, she can fulfil her wish and step on her as many times as she wants to so long she gives her the prawn. Another delusion one, eh?

So in the end, did she really have plans to invade humanity? That thought feels like it has become a distant dream. Just like that green alien frog, this squid girl also flops big time. However she flops in a cute way ;). I think it’s because she is lonely, the reason why she made invading humanity as an excuse to go on land to look for friends. She’s made lots of them in a way even if she’s being used, abused and invaded herself. So in a way you could say it is a successful failure, right? I guess she’s quite naive on how humans live so I think the rate she is going, she is going to need to spend more time living on land to learn more. It’s a good thing she has found her ‘family’ on the shore even if they all seem dysfunctional. You have got to agree with me that she is exudes lots of moe cuteness enough to send macho men fawning over her. She could be the next rising moe icon for all you know. Is it a surprise that many people want to own her? Even if it means for their own ulterior purpose? Man, I’ve got to get myself a squid girl too. Something about her tentacles bugs me a little. As seen it can do numerous and wonderful stuff that nobody could possibly match. So why didn’t she use it for her invasion? Maybe she hasn’t thought about it yet? Or maybe she did but really didn’t really want to invade. She’s got a bunch of other talents so much so you’d think that perhaps it is her brain that is lagging.

The other characters are as amusing as Ika herself and with the funny cast, I guess this is also what makes the series successful even if there is not really much of a plot. Stalker Sanae is some sort of a masochist and I think she prefers to get her kicks getting beaten up by the squid. Cindy and her idiotic trio may be top graduates from MIT but I guess the summer heat must have got to their heads seeing that they are obsessed in conducting a research on extraterrestrial life forms and come up with weird contraptions. Nagisa thinks she is the sanest person around but I think she is if not the most paranoid one. She worries too much if you ask me. Eiko may be a brute and using violence to keep Ika in line but that’s her way of caring for her. Chizuru is by far the most mysterious and perhaps the powerful one among the gang. You can say she’s at the top of the food chain. No doubt if you make her mad, you’ll regret having seeing her other side. Her unrivalled speed, power and seemingly omniscient powers make you wonder if she is indeed an alien or even the devil. So remember, when she opens her eyes, you’re in deep sh*t. Deeper than the ocean. If she really puts her mind into it, she can actually invade the entire world! Dangerous… Another mysterious character is the short appearance of Kozue. From the way she speaks and what I have read, she may be another sea creature taking a human form. In her case, she may be an octopus from her written kanji name and dressing.

Hisako Kanemoto did an excellent job voicing Ika. Definitely suits that squid girl with her “~de geso” sentence-ending lines and her other many moods which makes her just too cute to resist. Now I can see why Sanae is so infatuated with her. She was also the voice of Kanata in Sora No Woto. Rie Tanaka as Chizuru wasn’t as recognizable at first because she didn’t went hysterical like she did with Xanthippe in Sora Kake Girl or Sanada in UFO Princess Valkyrie. But at least I should have recognized her from her Suigin Tou role in Rozen Maiden. I guess it has become Ayumi Fujimura’s ‘forte’ to voice tough girls like how she did in Seikon No Qwaser as Mafuyu and Kaichou Wa Maid-sama as Misaki. She feels ‘at home’ with Eiko. Other casts include Kanae Itou as Sanae (Saten in To Aru Kagaku No Railgun, Amu in Shugo Chara), Azusa Kataoka as Nagisa (Sakura in Penguin Musume), Hitomi Nabatame as Cindy (Margery Daw in Shakugan No Shana series), Yuuchi Nakamura as Gorou (Tomoya in Clannad), Miki Ootani as Takeru (Hana in Kateikyoushi Hitman Reborn), Ayako Kawasumi as Ayumi (Nodame in Nodame Cantabile) and Akemi Kanda as Kozue (Asuna in Mahou Sensei Negima series).

On a trivial note, if you’re wondering why the episode titles are in the form of questions, that’s because it is a pun and play on Ika’s name. For instance “Shinryaku ShnaI KA?” or “Nakama Ja NaI KA?”. Well, it’s better than ending it with her typical “~de geso”. The opening theme, Shinryaku No Susume by Ultra-Prism with Ika Musume is infectiously cute. Howzabout starting off by singing “Shinryaku!” (Invasion!) repeatedly several times like as though they’re brainwashing you for her coming invasion. Otherwise it is your typical upbeat anime song. As for the ending theme, Metamerism, let’s just say that squids can’t sing and it’s better off that they don’t. Initially I thought it was Ika’s seiyuu who sang the song since it sounded so much like that “~de geso” girl but it is actually by Sanae’s seiyuu instead. Maybe I need to get my ears cleaned. So yeah, my bad to say that squids can’t sing. There is a different eyecatch for every ending credit animation. Though we see Ika standing and looking out to the dark black see, you’ll see a thing that is related to that episode appearing for instance a UFO flying across the screen, fireworks or Ika herself in a swimsuit, holding a broken umbrella, standing hand in hand with Kiyomi, that hideous head masks and not forgetting even that chibi Ika scurrying across.

So I guess that a subtle hint they’re trying to say is that stop polluting the Earth or risk the wrath of sea creatures exacting revenge on us humans. Don’t throw your bottles and cans into the ocean. Stop the oil spill. Cease pouring harmful chemicals into the sea. You don’t want a squid girl knocking on your door, would you? Urm… On second thought, maybe if the invader is this cute and cuddly, I wouldn’t mind it at all. So yeah, pollute the ocean, contribute to global warming! I really want to see what kind of cute girls the ocean will bring forth. Fancy a Tako Musume (Octopus Girl) or Same Musume (Shark Girl) or Iruka Musume (Dolphin Girl) or Hitode Musume (Starfish Girl) or Kani Musume (Crab Girl) or maybe a Mermaid! Hmm… Wondering the kind of havoc if there is Ebi Musume (Shrimp Girl). Suddenly I got this craving for fried sotong… Yummy… See how cute squid girl fear me instead ~de geso!

Prism Ark

July 15, 2011

After a long while, I thought it would be nice to go watch another fantasy RPG-like anime series. I don’t really remember how I chose Prism Ark. Probably it was the mindless web surfing or the eenie-meenie-mini-moe thingy for which series of this genre I should watch. Or maybe it’s the fanservice. Ah, what was I thinking. Anyway this series is based on the adult game of the same name. Ah, I see that’s where the fanservice comes in. I have not played the game before but I vaguely read somewhere that the adult contents of the game are quite explicit in nature. However, don’t get your hopes up in seeing explicit stuff in the adapted version. Or else you’d be sorely disappointed and be better off playing the game if you are really in for the horny stuff.

Just like in any fantasy RPG games or series, it takes time (at least for me) to learn and remember the names of the characters and places since they aren’t your typical John Smith and Mary Sue. What more their special weapons, techniques and other terms. Hah. I don’t think I’d ever manage to remember them when the anime ended. So in this world according to the anime, the first thing that strikes me was how similar the world map is to Europe. In fact, it is Europe! Just that the names of the countries have been changed. The country in focus is Windland. Say what? At first I thought it was Holland since you know, that place is famous for its windmills, like how they are abundant in this show. But why does it seem like occupying the spot for Germany? Oh, as for the other countries, I’m sure they’ll bring in some good laughter. Spain is Speen?! France is Frenchel?! Oh, they’re really making me laugh. What about this one: Italy = Victaly! Guess which country is Poleland? That’s no typo error! And how about United Kingdom? Untied Kingdom?! WTF?! Then there are rearrangements of some of the countries. For instance, Hungary is located above Speen while Denmark sits between Speen and Frenchel. This is one messed up world if you’re a purist in geography.

I couldn’t care less about the history and the war because you know, what good is an RPG anime without having long wars and everlasting conflict that brings pain, misery and suffering to the people. So the antagonist kingdom here is Sablum, which happens to be the Ottoman Empire if you know your history. They are attempting to take over Windland for who knows how long and with their huge deadly battle mechas known as Angels, if Windland doesn’t buck up, they’ll be another occupied territory under Sablum. That’s a no-no. So is there any hope for Windland to counter this threat from impending invasion? There is. The Rozenburg Knight Academy is established to train those future knights not only in swords but sorcery as well and protect the country they love. What were you expecting? A school on diplomacy? Who wants to see enemies talk it out when we all should know better this saying: Action speaks louder than words.

Episode 1
The series starts off a little confusing at first because it intertwines 2 different stories of different time line though they are connected. Unless you are familiar with the game (which I am not), you’d be scratching your head wondering what the hell is happening. So on one hand, we have the good guys, the knights, resting the night as they make their way against the final battle against Sablum. You can tell the hero, Hyaweh and the heroine, Priecia are lovers because they are spending quality time together and perhaps treating this as their last if they’d never see each other after the war ends. Of course not. Just kidding about the last bit. Suddenly their romantic moment is interrupted when they are being ambushed by the Sablum army, led by Sister Hell. Wow. What kind of cool baddie has this sort of cool name and a cool over-sized cross as her weapon? Hyaweh and Priecia aren’t just going to fight the entire army alone. Herald the other party members. Urm… Why aren’t they your typical RPG character class? Because they aren’t. Let’s see. We have the double sword wielding samurai girl, Karin Mibu who is also their instructor; the magical girl Fel who has very large awkward elven ears so much so you may mistake them for being bicycle handles; the miko priestess Kagura who is an expert bowmanship. Maybe they should have added a nekomimi girl too. Haha, just kidding. Yeah, we all know that the power battle of swords clashing and magic blasting isn’t going to end anytime soon so let’s go to the other part of the narration. Long ago, the future king and queen of Windland met when they were visiting some kingdom. Princea and her weak brother with an illness, Hans met Meister and they become good friends during their stay. Of course Princea and Meister soon take a liking for each other. Ah, the age of innocence. Till that damn war came. They had to leave. Hans and Meister promise to each other to become knights but soon that wish won’t be fulfilled because Hans’ weak body gave in and he died. Princea vowed to become a knight to fulfil her brother’s wish as she faces all sort of uphill challenges to successfully become a top knight and reunited with Meister again.

Episode 2
We see some leader of the Sablum Empire called Gerot talking to his subjects. He is revelling in his army hailing him when his mercenaries Sister Hell and Darkness Knight mock him he will never conquer Windland due to Meister and Princea’s legacy. He becomes infuriated about his failed spies in acquiring information about the Windland royalty. He summons Bridget to do the job once and for all. Back at Rozenburg, Priecia is being made to do some promo filming to recruit knights to the school. Yeah, sex sells. Just that, Kisarov, the headmaster of the academy and the current Duke of Windland is recording all that. I can tell what kind of amusing pervy character this Kisarov will be. Bridget disguises herself as a transfer student at Rozenburg. I can see why Gerot’s spies all fail him. Even Bridget is a goofball. After hearing rumours about the lost princess of Windland making her appearance at Rozenburg, Bridget starts thinking too much how this princess will look like and scares herself. In the hall as Karin gives her opening speech to the aspiring knights, Fel mistakes Bridget to be princess Priecia. Everybody starts getting hyped up to get to know her but Bridget starts freaking out. Hey, if she can’t even handle this, she isn’t cut out for bigger stuff. Just when she thought she is saved by the teacher’s intervention, the teacher too thinks she’s Priecia! She invites ‘Priecia’ up to the stage to do demonstrate some of her skills. Now she is in sh*t. The real Priecia meets Hyaweh outside the hall (she isn’t amused of Kisarov’s exaggerated ‘advertising’ on her). Hyaweh gets friendly with her and takes her hand as he drags her into the hall. Bridget is being such a wuss that everybody starts doubting if she’s the real deal. Everybody gets shocked when Bridget finally comes clean that she isn’t the princess they think she is. Karin has to intervene to fight off the wooden dolls onstage but Kisarov notices Bridget’s swift knife attack to take out a wooden doll when it threatened Karin from the back. But there are too many wooden dolls for them to handle so Priecia can’t stand it all and finish it all. Priecia points her sword at poor Bridget and is prepared to slash her for insulting her. But Hyaweh stops Priecia’s sword with just his mere fingers. She can’t even move or budge her sword. He insists that they become friends but Priecia is too emo to think rationally so she pulls back and continues attacking him.

Episode 3
The fight continues. Priecia’s attack is all over the place (not to mention damaging everything), but Hyaweh is able to dodge them all like a cool cat. Hyaweh persists that they get along and even praises her beauty. Well, that annoyed her even more. Shouldn’t every girl feel honoured to be praised by a guy even if she hates him? Priecia trips on a wooden doll and refuses Hyaweh’s help. She wants to attack again but is stopped by Kisarov, telling her that she lost. Hyaweh is made to give an opening speech and since he doesn’t know what to say, he accidentally rips Karin’s samurai skirt. Now it’s Karin’s turn to go berserk and rip the place apart. Why is she more bothered to slash that guy rather than putting some pants on? Doesn’t she feel embarrassed swinging her sword in her undies? Of course, till he points that out. Did Hyaweh survive that blast? Well, he was fast enough to dodge any sort of attacks, right? Later as Bridget is walking through the corridors, her mind is wondering if Hyaweh is the missing ‘princess’ of Windland. She bumps into Fel and learns that she is her roommates. Fel teases Bridget that she is interested in Hyaweh. Hyaweh experiences traps that could kill him wherever he goes in school. He tries to join Priecia during recess but she splashes her drink on his face after he compliments her fighting (took that as an insult?). After Priecia leaves, a group of 3 stooges (that’s what I like to call them), Aira, Massie and Orthy, pledge their loyalty to protect Priecia (because they really suck up to her – except for Orthy who thinks Hyaweh is cool too) but the princess tells them to bug off or she’ll kill them. Hyaweh thinks of skipping class when he sees a little girl in trouble with her book load. Turns out she is no little girl. She is Litte Ratus and is his homeroom teacher! Gosh. Another loli teacher. Hyaweh ends up getting her severe punishment: Holding water buckets. That is supposed to be severe? Later he gets a message from Priecia to meet her at the woods. But it was a trap by those 3 stooges to finish him off as they see him as a threat to their beloved Priecia. Yup, all those traps for him were set by them. They use their combo attack to finish him off. He manages to dodge the first two but he can’t for the last one. Priecia arrives in time to save his ass. She gives a stern warning to the stooges and sends them scurrying away. Don’t take it the wrong way that she’s grateful. Just that she doesn’t want anybody else fighting for her. Suddenly they are being swamped by knives. They are surrounded by ninjas. Oh boy. It’s rare to see this kind of character class. They fight the ninjas but the ninja boss, Chizakura takes on Priecia one to one. The ninjas retreat when they are greeted by a flurry of arrows from Kagura. Once the ninjas are gone, Kagura goes up to Priecia and hugs her.

Episode 4
Looks like Priecia has another annoying person to add to her list. Kagura becomes a stalker to her and watches her every move. Yeah, she is also a transfer student in her class to keep a good watch on her. Then during recess, she’s got Kagura on one side and Hyaweh on the other. Life is sure getting hard. We are also introduced to another 3 stooges, guys this time but are less goofy than their female counterparts. They are Acty Axel, Ein and Jung Von Ferdinand. Even if emo girl is quick to leave, Kagura follows her everywhere she goes and even inspects the toilet she is about to use! Priecia complains to Kisarov but the latter insists she came from afar to protect her. Yeah, it’s like everybody is going against her with Hyaweh telling her that Kagura saved her life. Hyaweh’s little sister, Filia comes looking for him so that guy has to abandon his talk with Priecia and ‘discuss’ with his little one. Filia has got this onii-chan complex so I guess it’s no surprise she is taking up a job as a maid in this academy in order to look after him too. With Filia temporary staying in Hyaweh’s room, Hyaweh has to sleep in the tower that Kagura is stalking Priecia. Next day, I guess he must have woke up due to Priecia’s b*tching over Kagura that the only way she’s going to accept her as her bodyguard is over a duel with their primary weapons and no magic allowed. Soon everybody gets to know about this match (the fanclub girls are real concern about it) as Filia thinks of making a welcoming party. Her cooking may seem horrible and unappetizing but after tasting it, it’s delicious! Never judge a book by its cover. Match day arrives and both ladies impressively start their attack while the other students watch and cheer them on. Bridget is waiting outside the battle hall and hoping to take advantage of the situation in good timing. But unfortunately, her bad luck causes her to misfire a spell and the building catching fire. Everybody evacuates except for Priecia and Kagura, still intending to finish their duel. When Hyaweh realizes both ladies are still inside, he rushes back in. Priecia accidentally injures Hyaweh’s shoulder when he tries to stop their fight. Karin arrives to put out the flames with her fire spell. That’s what you call fighting fire with fire. Everyone is relieved to see the trio emerging out from the building. Karin slaps him for being reckless and will have everyone punished. Including the spectators. Later as everyone is cleaning the academy, Kagura admits that she lost but Priecia says the match wasn’t finished. Kagura will continue to watch Priecia but from a distance and give her some space. Priecia thanks Hyaweh for saving them.

Episode 5
We begin with a little history lesson. 16 years ago, the king and queen of Windland, Meister and Princea were travelling with their baby daughter when they were ambushed by Angels and went missing. Currently the throne is empty but Kisarov is temporarily heading it as the Duke. Later Kisarov announces a Prism Exam dubbed Puriken whereby the aspiring knights will take an exam to advance to the next level. Priecia trains with Karin but gets a sound beating due to her weakened heart. She gets chided for trying to protect her silly pride and as long as her head isn’t clear, she’ll never master her sword. After all that emo talk, it’s good once in a while she gets a taste of her own medicine. Later the 3 stooges discuss with Fel and wonders if Hyaweh is at fault for losing her concentration. They think she may be in… Love? Nah… Well, up to you to think because that night, Priecia’s thoughts are filled with Hyaweh and can’t concentrate on her training. Hyaweh is taking a midnight stroll and meets Fel. She teaches him how to use the Prism power. That is, you have to feel it from the bottom of your heart. He also learns the reason why she is making a giant snowflake magic due to a promise to visit her friend’s country and watch the snow together once she masters it. Soon he remembers his initial promise he had. He goes to Priecia who is still having troubles with her practice. He tells her how to use the Prism like what Fel told him and also about the promise he made. Flashback reveals young Hyaweh and Filia were happy playing together when an Angel started attacking them. He asserted his will to protect Filia but was hopelessly thrown back by the Angel’s force. That’s when Darkness Knight swiftly steps in to destroy the Angel and left Hyaweh his dagger. That’s when Hyaweh resolved to become someone who has the power to protect. Priecia notes how similar he is to Kagura as they both laugh. She proclaims from today, he will be her rival. She resumes her training and is able to pull off a superb move. Woah! She blasted a hole through the waterfall! Next day Priecia and Karin have their rematch. Priecia wins after pulling off her Mirage Rush move. Karin is satisfied with her progress. Soon the Puriken come and go. Everyone passes except for the 3 stooges. Remedial classes!

Episode 6
The gang head to the town to relax since they earned a day off. In town, Hyaweh and Priecia got separated together but that didn’t stop the rest from having fun. A funny part was how the girls heard ambiguous lines from the duo in a tent. They think they’re doing something immoral when the tent inside itself is pretty cramp (use your imagination). It gets worse when they stumble out in a compromising position. Kagura fires her arrows so the duo flee. They come into contact with Acty who is acting like some pimp and the big customer turns out to be Kisarov. Priecia isn’t happy when they think they’re on a date so after arguing, she storms off with Hyaweh. After getting ice cream from a suspicious looking vendor, they spend more time together. Priecia’s face turns very red when Hyaweh licks ice cream off her face. Then they talk about their country and protecting it. Priecia mentions about wanting to go to the beach next time because she has never seen the ocean before (seriously?). Hyaweh promises to take her there and notices a clock around her neck as she explains it is from her parents and considers it to be very important. Their nice time is interrupted when they are surrounded by ninjas. With the watch, they are pretty confident she is the missing princess of Windland. Hyaweh fights the ninjas but Chizakura has got Priecia hostage. He throws a poison knife at Hyaweh. I’m wondering why he didn’t dodge that. He passes out and Chizakura escapes with Priecia in his clutches. Hyaweh wakes up to the sound of his sister calling him. The other girls have found him and are being told what happened to Priecia. Filia rushes back to the academy to alert Karin (in the midst of training those stooges). Kagura pulls out some charm that allows them to track where Priecia is. Hyaweh catches up to Chizakura and they fight. Hyaweh’s determination to save Priecia has him unleashing a powerful energy ball which turns into his angelic sword, Ala-Gladius. Chizakura couldn’t understand the attributes of Hyaweh’s sword and I guess he took too long so the backup Karin arrives to rescue Priecia and do a little skirmish. Chizakura escapes seeing he can’t win this. Bridget goes after the ninja as she recognizes him as one of her allies. She sees Chizakura reporting to Darkness Knight. The latter kills him for his failure. Bridget is confused and shocked at what she saw but quickly escapes when Darkness Knight senses her presence. In the carriage, Priecia looks forward to Hyaweh’s date in bringing her to the beach. But as soon as he mentions about bringing everyone else along, she gets upset and slaps him. He is so dense and oblivious, she is so tsundere and emo.

Episode 7
The knights will undergo their first real mission. A seemingly dangerous one too because it is to defend a fort at a border between Windland and Sablum. What are the chances of a newbie knocking on death’s door? However Hyaweh’s mind is confused, his heart wavering. Why? Yesterday when Priecia offered to walk him back under her umbrella, after he apologized for the other day (that beach date thingy lah) she asked him if he liked her. He said yes. Her reply was: She hates him! WTF?! Then she storms off. WTH?! Something bugs me. When Priecia popped that Hyaweh seemed very shocked like as though he didn’t see this coming. And I thought he was all the while praising her so it must have occurred to me that deep down in his heart he must’ve liked her. And Priecia’s dishonest attitude makes it even worse and gives more fuel for guys to say “Women. Can’t understand them”. So back in reality as everyone boards the vehicles to their deaths, oops I mean, first mission, Hyaweh is so troubled that he didn’t even notice Fel’s greeting. And why is Filia joining the troop? I thought she was just a school maid? On the way, Bridget feigns sickness because she can’t bear the thought to fight her own comrades. Upon arriving at the fort, Karin is reporting back when a fallen soldier comes knocking on her door. She realizes they have been ambushed and that the fort has fallen into Sablum’s hands. The Sablum army charges ahead as the rookie knights try to fend for themselves. Karin gives orders to retreat but Priecia refuses to obey and wants to go rescue soldiers she thinks are hurt and trapped inside the fort. Both ladies have their ideals clashed as a knight. Their debate is interrupted when a giant Angel descends from the sky. Furthermore, its cannon blaster is damn powerful and could probably blow up the whole mountain. This doesn’t stop Priecia to charge at the Angel. At this point, I think she’s just being stubborn. Not heeding Hyaweh’s call to retreat for now. What is there not to understand? Want to make her last stand and show off being a heroine? The Angel recharges and is about to fire another shot. Priecia unleashes her Glow Rush move. However it wasn’t effective as the blast disperse into several smaller shots and rain down on her comrades below, injuring some of them. See, whose fault is it? Hyaweh rushes over to pick up Priecia who has been hit by the Angel’s cannon. The Angel aims point blank at them. At that point, Hyaweh uses his Ala-Gladius and easily destroys the Angel via beam of bright light. Woah. He should’ve used this from the start. Soon he collapses. Litte recognizes the sword as it is also known as The Angel Slayer.

Episode 8
Everyone returns to Rozenburg. Karin apologizes over the failed mission but Kisarov is interested in Hyaweh and Ala-Gladius. Though Hyaweh is injured and recuperating in the infirmary, he is sleeping soundly (that’s a good sign, right?). Priecia is about to visit him when she overheard Karin and Litte talking about how that move could seriously endanger his life. If it isn’t enough trouble already, Priecia felt guilty over her actions and ran away from the academy. In town, she gets into more trouble when a couple of thugs try to hit on her and she didn’t fight back. Pimping Acty tries to save her by turning into some masked crusader but his own blunder took himself out. Fortunately, a passing nun, Theresa saves her from being raped (they weren’t out to rob a cutie, right?). Priecia wakes up in a Theresa’s church. She goes outside to see her tending her tomato garden. Priecia wants to thank her but Theresa ignores her, thus pissing her off and returning her b*tchy emo attitude. Apparently Priecia has never eaten a tomato before so it was quite funny when she asked how to eat it. Step 1: Put tomato in your mouth. Step 2: Bite and swallow. Simple! Duh! She finds it delicious and over the next few days, Priecia helps Theresa plant tomatoes as gratitude. However the tomatoes she plant aren’t growing well so Priecia is a little frustrated. Theresa advices her about several factors for the tomato to grow well, in which can be applied to life as well. Too bad Priecia had to squash the poor tomato in the end (wasted). Theresa’s words echo in her mind and sound somewhat similar to Karin’s about her foolish pride. Theresa walks away so Priecia now becomes emotional and starts wondering what the hell she’s been doing all the while. I can think a lot of bad moves. Meanwhile her friends at Rozenburg are worried of her disappearance and goes all out to search for her. Later, Priecia follows Theresa to town. Theresa pays a visit to several orphanage kids and gives them her harvested tomatoes. The kids are fascinated with this ‘weird’ woman Theresa is and proceeded to play knight with her. Seems fine, only thing is Priecia is the monster. I think it fits her personality. As the ladies are to part come evening, the little orphan girl hands a prism cross as thanks. However Theresa remembers some traumatic memories and hits it away, hurting the girl’s feelings. Now it’s Priecia’s turn to give some lecturing but Theresa can’t accept it still and runs away. Priecia promises the girl that she will give the cross to her on her behalf. Back in the church, Theresa relives those horrifying memories (capsules filled with hideous life experiment?). Priecia interrupts and wants her to take the cross and continues her lecture. Who is being the hypocrite now? So Theresa tells her back she’s just being naive. Back at Rozenburg, Hyaweh wakes up and the first thing he said was Priecia’s name. I guess he can’t really stop thinking about her.

Episode 9
The gang are making headway in their search for Priecia. Kisarov gets a visitor: Echo. She has been spying in the Sablum Empire as Gerot’s harem. Yeah, that guy is so sloppy, she could’ve chopped his head any moment. Now is it really a wonder why his spies and security fail him. How can that guy ever best Windland? Kisarov and Echo’s talk reveal several details like when the king and queen of Windland disappeared 16 years ago, Hyaweh and Ala-Gladius mysteriously appeared (did they came crashing down from a comet?) so Kisarov raised him and thinks the events of his appearance is to slay the Angels. They also talk about Tempelritter (a powerful army unit commanded by Judas in which Karin was part of) to rid of heretics against their God. Sablum then were kidnapping and housing children and Theresa was the head of the conspiracy. Theresa abandoned her faith when she saw children being used as experiments and even killed them. Tempelritter attacked her church though she was believed to be dead, she actually had fled. No further details are known as Tempelritter holds information on that night tightly. In present time, Hyaweh finds Priecia outside the church garden as they talk (I thought she hated him) while Karin enters the church to find Priecia. She recognizes Theresa’s voice and is surprised she is alive. She won’t forgive her for what she has done but Theresa remains calm and cool. Karin wants to fight her but Theresa doesn’t wish to. So I guess Karin was being persistent that made Theresa transformed into… Sister Hell. Hey, she has her own henshin sequence! They both fight but Karin is no match. She could’ve been killed if Priecia and Hyaweh decide to finally stop listen and campur tangan. Since Hyaweh still hasn’t recuperated, Priecia takes her on. Priecia is having a hard time too but after some encouragement from Karin, she uses her Mirage Rush to turn the tables. If Sister Hell was caught in that blast, how come her outer clothes were only ripped? Priecia refuses to kill Sister Hell and is about to hand over the cross when an explosion rocks the church. It’s Darkness Knight and he wants to see Ala-Gladius’ power. He is disappointed when Hyaweh can’t seem to make it work like he did previously. Priecia charges but gets slammed away. He spots her time memento and experiences flashes of memories of Meister and Princea (I think I know who this guy is now). Hyaweh pulls out a dagger and stabs it in Darkness Knight’s head. Morning comes, Darkness Knight and Theresa are gone. Hyaweh hands Priecia the cross and says Theresa told him for her to hold on the cross for now and will accept it from her someday. Their friends arrive to pick them up.

Episode 10
Suddenly after all that potential build-up, we are returned to some school cultural festival thingy at Rozenburg called PNP (Prism Night Party). Apparently Kisarov wants to have fun too. Work hard, play hard. Hyaweh’s guy buddies are pestering him about details if he might do anything ‘adventurous’ with Priecia but he denies doing anything or even kissing. Priecia overheard this and is very annoyed and gives him the cold shoulder. Yeah, she even has thoughts about kissing him. Trying to practice kissing herself via mirror in the toilet? Everyone discusses about PPP (Prism Prince and Princess). Think of it something similar as your prom king and queen. Since the attributes to become PPP differ every year, this makes everyone have a chance to get the coveted crown. Filia makes a giant banner as preparation for the festival. She really is looking forward to be the princess and her brother the prince. Why is he staring at her ass? Is he developing into a lolicon? That night, Hyaweh practices with Ala-Gladius but totally fails. He encounters Priecia and that girl wants to settle their fight in another duel. Can’t she just talk things out? Apparently not. Must be one of her emo pride swings taking effect at this moment. Kisarov interrupts their petty moment and mentions that this year’s PPP theme is acting. Hiring Fel as the director, Kisarov and Fel proceed to put up some lame acting ‘preview’ of a play which is a twisted combination of Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. Furthermore, there must be some sort of ‘action’ in it as they demonstrate of getting beaten up whenever the prince and princess meet. Annoyed Priecia is obviously uninterested in such a stupid play and no matter how much Fel tries to explain and make it juicer, she isn’t moved. Till she mentions about the last part whereby the prince and princess will kiss. Priecia makes a total u-turn and forces Hyaweh into joining the competition as part of their duel. Priecia will have to face competition too as their other pals also crave to have the PPP title (some wanting to kiss Hyaweh like Filia and Orthy and some wanting a year’s worth of meal vouchers like Kagura and Bridget).

Episode 11
The festival begins and the battle to obtain PPP is explained. It is some sort of free-for-all and battle royale for the guys and girls to obtain a breastplate each, put them on and then rush to the love stage in order to become PPP and the lead protagonists for the play. The rush for the breastplate begins and it is every guy and girl for themselves. Aira and Massie cling onto Priecia’s leg in an attempt to hold her back because they reason she is a real princess and want her to give them a chance to be one. Like she cares when kissing is the ultimate prize on the line. Everybody turns on each other and even the teachers like unscrupulous Karin and Litte are also in the race desperate to obtain the breastplate. The breastplate keeps flying into different hands (like Priecia pulling off her Mirage Rush on everybody). Filia is excited and tells Hyaweh that she will be the first person to have his kiss. Staying true to the ‘prophecy’, the male breastplate lands in Hyaweh’s hands like as though it fell from Heaven. Now all the ‘zombie’ guys are targeting him. The female breastplate falls into Priecia’s hands and it seems her ideal plan is going in the right way. Now Hyaweh has to carry her to the stage but they are swamped by other desperate students. In the confusion, it is Hyaweh and Filia that ends up wearing the armour on the stage! How disappointing for Priecia. That night everybody prepares for the play. The other friends are given other minor roles. Filia notices Priecia’s feelings so just before the play starts, Filia swaps her role with Priecia. Can she learn her lines fast? Don’t worry, Filia is nearby to feed them to her. The play starts and you wonder if it’s part of the script or just fumbling (like how Hyaweh tripped and exposed Priecia’s breastplate and thus her bra). Then comes the much anticipated final scene in which Hyaweh must kiss Priecia to wake her up. To everyone’s disappointment, he kissed her forehead. It was enough to wake her up but Priecia too is pretty irritated, asking him if he really loves her or not. Hyaweh confesses that he loves her and they both kiss, much to the crowd’s delight. And you know, that love speech isn’t in the script. This means they aren’t acting, right? Kisarov must be damn proud of this masterpiece. As everyone onstage takes a bow, Bridget realizes that she has been caught up in the party and fooling around too much and decides to resume her snooping. Outside Hyaweh’s room, she spots Litte inside and reporting to Judas that Hyaweh is no doubt the one.

Episode 12
Kisarov announces a special graduation duel between student representatives of Hyaweh and Priecia that will be attended by Judas in episode 12. Filia pecks Hyaweh on the cheek before the match, shocking everyone. Hyaweh and Priecia face each other in the ring and will settle their long outstanding dues. Though we won’t see how the match proceeds, in the aftermath, seems Priecia has won the match since she has been given the ultimate prize as a Royal Guard. Their other friends too graduate and are being assigned to other divisions like Bridget a spy in Sablum (how ironic) and Hyaweh personally has been asked by Judas to join his Tempelritter. That night as Priecia gets ready for the dance party, Kisarov wonders about her feelings for Hyaweh. She gets flustered and brushes it off but he says it’s nothing to be shy about because he knows about it and this may be her last chance to see him. Obviously why not since her tsundere character is very obvious. At the party, Hyaweh accidentally spills a drink over Judas’ clothes. Karin wants him to apologize but Judas is okay with it. Hyaweh is ‘saved’ when Priecia decides to take him along with her. Outside in the woods, it must have become some sort of trend that every time these 2 talk, it wouldn’t be complete with you-know-who trying to start arguing. Hyaweh compliments her beautiful dress but she thinks he is into more of artificial beauty (just shut up and listen to him, will you!). Continuing her accusation that he is the same like everyone else, he’s into her because she’s a princess, bla bla bla, they ended up struggling, fall off a cliff into the water below. Perfect chance to kiss. Oh why not? She can’t talk with water in her mouth. It’s the perfect chance to ‘shut her up’. After they surface and dry themselves, Priecia still isn’t going to believe it but Hyaweh plays it cool and even so will always be by her side. This is when Priecia trusts him enough to tell him her biggest secret. No, she’s not pregnant. She is the daughter of Kisarov and has been raised as a princess as a substitute princess ever since the royal couple went missing. The real princess is still missing. So her reason for putting up this tsundere attitude and not being able to love anyone is to prepare for the day to become the ‘real’ queen and lead and give hope to the people of Windland. Yeah, it’s a big responsibility. Thus the reason she came here to say farewell to him. Hyaweh thanks her for sharing this as she hugs him after finishing her teary story. He asserts that he loves her and enjoys doing everything with her (including the arguments?) but will always be with her as her knight. They kiss again. That is number 3.

Meanwhile Litte is seen talking to Judas (Bridget so good in eavesdropping as usual – but this time she gets caught). She is against his plan to attack the academy tonight since he already has obtained Hyaweh under his wing. Judas says that he isn’t interested in taking over Windland but rather wants to see Hyaweh unleash the true powers of the Ark. An Angel comes crashing into that castle that sends everyone into alert and evacuation mode. Kisarov tells Karin to take care of the students as he has a score to settle. Part of this invading army is Darkness Knight. He is searching for Hyaweh wanting to settle a score with him but is faced with Kisarov instead. Kisarov knows Darkness Knight is Meister and the latter is having difficulties trying to remember his memories. Both sides lunge forward to each other. Meanwhile we see Gerot in panic as he is unaware of this unauthorized attack as he is facing some interrogation of bald sages. They are worried that this will threaten their goal of becoming Gods. Princea is seen to be unconscious in a capsule. Hyaweh and Priecia fight their way through as Kagura covers for them. Hyaweh and Priecia hold and use Ala-Gladius together as a bright light is emitted from the sword. I’m not sure if its power is kept in the satellite hovering over the planet. They transform into some legendary being called Megido (I thought it was some sort of blue Ultraman) and easily beats the crap out of the enemy. Judas is happy to see the legendary power unfolding before his eyes while the rest watches the blinding light. Kisarov has defeated Darkness Knight and feels that there is still hope. Priecia’s feelings for Hyaweh completely changes as she believes they will always be together. In the aftermath as Hyaweh and Priecia lie unconscious on the ground but hand in hand, Sister Hell stands close by noting how the next battle will start and will one day fulfil her promise and thus should sleep for now with her loved one.

Finland Is Not On The Map. Otherwise This Series Will Be Finish!!!
If this is how it ends, then it is extremely disappointing. It felt like the whole series wasn’t about trying to prepare for the war against the Sablum Empire, it felt more like a high school life only with a fantasy twist. I mean, we see a big chunk of the story of the knights in the academy like training and the last few episodes having some sort of fun school cultural festival. We have the first episode which seems promising enough but at the end as we all have seen, it doesn’t even come close to that scene. Which means, that a lot of fight scenes have been cut out. The ones shown here are just average, some close to ridiculous (yeah, that satellite one) and could have been better though some are worth the part like Hyaweh’s short bout with Darkness Knight. The flow of the story isn’t smooth in the sense of the pacing and the characters like Sister Hell and Darkness Knight’s appearance were somewhat staggering, appearing here and there. The way it ended on a hanging note probably means that if the producers ever wanted to continue the series, they could pick up from there. But you know, it’s been several years already since this series came out back in 2007 and I don’t hear any sequels about it. After some interesting build-up at the end, it leaves much to be desired especially some of the characters and the plot. If I didn’t go do a little brief reading up of them, I wouldn’t have understood the implications of it all in the end. Like how those bald sages and Judas intend on becoming God by obtaining the power of the Ark and that Meister became Darkness Knight when he somewhat lost his memories and his cursed helmet is partly to blame for his altered personality.

I’m sure everyone would agree with me that the most annoying character in the series isn’t the 3 stooges but Priecia. It’s like she has a problem with love. Oh wait, maybe she does. One minute, she is hot, the next she is emotional. Typical tsundere. It feels like her attitude is even more overwhelming than the threat of the Sablum Empire. And why take it out on Hyaweh? Thank goodness he is a patient, friendly and understanding guy. If he is one of those hot-headed people, the argument could’ve been worse. Over the series, I was hoping to see the change in Priecia from her moody emotional swings and even her cold and unfriendly attitude to one that we first see at the start of the series. I nearly gave up and thought that she is born like that till the final scenes. Each time she goes into her irrational fit, I felt like strangling her. Maybe I shouldn’t blame her entirely. After all she is a teenager at that age whereby she’s experiencing raging hormones and rebellious nature. She knows she has to shoulder a huge responsibility for her Windland people when she ascends the throne. But I’m glad she gradually accepts her friends (like Kagura) and love though it is too late by the time the series has already ended. Hey, it’s better than never, right? This series is too short to see Hyaweh’s character grow. We just know that he can use his Ala-Gladius and ultimately that Megido power but whether or not he can fully control and master it is still a mystery.

Kisarov is another amusing character because of his dramatic speech (going high and low like as though he’s practising for an opera) and sometimes his weird poses while talking. He may be goofy and pervy but he proves he is still a force to be reckoned with when the time calls for it. Bridget’s role as a dojikko brings somewhat the comical factor to the series. It makes you wonder how she ended up becoming a spy when she spends more time goofing and flopping her spying missions. The information that she sends and reports back to Gerot isn’t that useful either. In short, she’s a complete idiot. Other characters like Filia, Fel, Kagura and Karin became just secondary and I feel they don’t play major roles that made an impact in the series. Minor characters like the 3 stooges (both the guys and girls) become even more minor as they only provide comic relief, which is probably the only thing I would look forward to considering the way this series is going. And as said because of the short length of the series, other casts aren’t flesh out enough like Judas’ late appearance and his probable potential role as an antagonist. Though we have some past events like Hyaweh’s advent and will to protect, Theresa’s haunting memories and clash with the Tempelritter explained, it isn’t enough to do much justice. So in the end, Windland is still with war with Sablum and that useless Gerot is still heading his throne.

If you’re wondering about the fanservice, it’s really nothing that impressive. Sure we have panty shots, cleavage close-ups and bouncy boobs but I think you can be easily distracted by the other stuff like the comical antics and oh God… Priecia’s tsundere. And if the mid-intermission is their idea of adding extra fanservice, then it would be such a disappointment either. Except for Sister Hell’s one that comes close to just passable, it doesn’t feel anything near to satisfying and felt just like mugshots of the characters. Maybe the ending credits animation with the female characters in their swimsuits at the beach should be enough? I guess if you want something more hardcore, just play the game. The drawing and art are just okay and nothing ground breaking. I notice and found out that some of the seiyuus take on several voice roles in the show. But since they don’t do any differentiation with their voice and their other role, it sometimes confuses me and makes me wonder if those characters are the same. For instance, Yu Kobayashi did Aira and Jung and since I’m familiar with her voice (after hearing all those ‘crazy’ roles, I think I should know how she sounds like even if she doesn’t even start screaming her head off), I started wondering if they were siblings or even the same character but putting on a different appearance.

I read some viewer comments that this series isn’t really being faithful to the game version and the adaption was just terrible. But who am I to complain since I haven’t got the slightest interest to go check out the game or even bother to play a demo of it (if there is even one). In the real world, if there is such a b*tchy woman like Priecia around in the defence unit, I’m sure there’ll be lots of other problems that will come with it. Do you want to have somebody like her in your troop? Well if she changes for the better quickly then it is okay but after seeing how long it took her, I’m having second thoughts. It’s very important and a great morale booster to have a head of a country leading his/her army into war. And sometimes it isn’t how big your army and all it takes is just the right person. Even so, to borrow a line from somebody who said this: “You can have the best army in the world but still lose the war”.

One Piece part 2

July 9, 2011

Remember that joke, how many Gokus does it take to screw in a lightbulb? One. But it takes him ten episodes to do so! So what does this has to do with the pirate-themed One Piece? Well, it has been over a year since my last blog on this series and well, they’re still at the halfway point! Now this is what I call really dragging the plot. Recalling back to my very simplified blog post on this series, it has been one very long adventure but the whole of last year was about Luffy trying to rescue Ace who is going to undergo a public execution. Well, watching long running anime series really made me lazy doing any blog review. So as usual, I’d put them in very summarized form (if I can remember them) and for those wanting to read more, I’m sure there are many fansites out there dedicated to this very popular series that stays true to the manga. Or like my ‘favourite’ website, check out Wikipedia for the episode summaries for this season.

Impel Down Arc (cont.)
Yeah, Luffy manages to bust into the world’s most secure prison of the Marines, Impel Down. Nobody checks in, nobody checks out. Along the way, Luffy gathers several allies as he tries to go deeper into the 5 levels of the prison in his attempt to rescue big brother Ace, he faces lots of challenging obstacles in his attempts to get to the bottom of it all. Whether it is the thorny and bloody Level 1, the dangerous but ugly animals in Level 2 (including that ugly giant Sphinx that ends his sentence with some sort of noodles words), the hot and sandy Level 3 of starvation (where they face shorty Saldeath’s armies), the hot burning pot in Level 4 and taking on Sadie’s Demon Guards. Hancock visits Ace and during the commotion, she whispers to him that Luffy is on his way to bust him out, surprising that death-row guy.

Luffy fights Magellan and his poison powers on Level 4 while reluctant Bon Clay has to run away since he knows he stands no chance against the warden. Buggy releases all the other prisoners so that they can distract and start a rebellion. In the end, Magellan’s poison overwhelms and covers Luffy’s entire body, though the latter pushes his body to the limit and manages to give him a good punch. Can he survive it when nobody else can? Luffy is thrown into the icy prison of Level 5 where he will freeze to death. Bon Clay impersonates as Hannyabal and tries to find the legendary Emporio Ivankov AKA Ivan in hopes to heal Luffy to atone for his abandonment. They are attacked by wolves but unconscious Luffy’s Haki causes the pack to blackout. The next thing Bon Clay knows is that he is in a secret level: Level 5.5! Uh huh. Amazingly this is a secret level whereby not even a single jail warden knew where all the prisoners disappeared to. Ivan is there too and he is some sort the queen of all transvestites. Every prisoner there is enjoying his/her time eating, drinking, dancing and be merry! I didn’t know life here was so good! What’s more, everybody is taking out their deep desires by cross-dressing, etc. Disgusting or sick? But they’re all happy.

Bon Clay begs Ivan to heal Luffy and I’m not sure about this method about injecting some hormones into him and locking him inside a room, screaming for who knows how long as everybody else outside could just cheer him on. For whatever and obvious reasons, this has to work because Luffy is miraculously healed and is displayed in his endless amount of appetite after that. That’s why he is the O-N-E. I don’t know how Ivan measured this but it will take 10 years of his life. But they got more things to worry about and rest is not an option as Ace’s execution is less than a day. We also learn that there is a secret and rarely known Level 6 whereby the most dangerous criminals are kept here such as Ace, Jimbei and Crocodile. Ivan is shocked to learn Luffy is the son of the revolutionary Dragon and pledges to serve him since he and his comrade Inazuma once served Dragon under one of his armies. By the time Luffy and co finally reach Level 6, Ace has already been handed over to the Marines. All that effort wasted. Now they have to run back up. Sighs… Here we go again.

As Luffy and the rest battle to go upwards, Blackbeard and his crew bust in. They free a dangerous ex-warden Shiryuu and make him part of their crew. Blackbeard faces off with Luffy temporarily but the latter has to go since time is running out for Ace. Magellan fights Blackbeard and wins and then goes to stop Luffy. My, he must been having a busy day. The prisoners plan to hijack a Marine ship. Magellan uses his desperate attempt to stop them from escaping. Luffy and the other surviving prisoners manage to board the ship and surprisingly the gates opened for them. Seems that Bon Clay impersonated as Magellan and ordered the gates to be opened. He sacrificed himself so that the rest could go and save Ace. A noble act indeed. I’m sure even if Magellan pounds on poor him, there is nothing more that could be done since Impel Down’s reputation has been tarnished.

Rescue Ace Arc
Ace’s public execution is ticking down as every Marine including the 3 Admirals along with some of the Shichibukai are lining up and preparing to face the possible rescue party from the Whitebeard Pirates. Sengoku reveals to everyone that Ace is the real son of Gold Roger! I don’t know how, when they executed him, they decided to get rid of his lineage. But Ace’s mom, Portgas had him inside her womb for 20 months! She died after giving birth to him and Roger handed Ace in the care of Garp. How ironic, eh? Son of the world’s most dangerous pirate in the hands of a high ranking Marine officer. Yeah, and with Luffy and Ace becoming sworn blood brothers, I guess that is just inviting trouble. Like a time bomb ticking. Now it’s the time to explode. Luffy’s stowaway ship manages to sneak into the Marine’s HQ somehow as Whitebeard and his allies made their surprising entry from underneath. Yeah, no matter how high and armed those walls are, it doesn’t really matter if you don’t think about putting up some defence underwater. They really didn’t thought of that?

So this is where the big battle of the era begins. Whitebeard Pirates and allies against the entire Marine. Luffy and the rest also manage to join in as the battle becomes one big messy and chaotic affair. I guess Aokiji’s freezing of the water in the middle makes a big convenience for the battle to take place. Don’t worry. It’s nothing like Disney On Ice. So lots of swords clashing, bullets flying, cannons firing, people screaming, it’s crazy I tell you. Along the way, we see some past flashbacks like Whitebeard’s, how Ace met him and become one of his ‘sons’, why he is hunting down traitor Blackbeard. We also get to watch as Luffy takes on some of the Shichibukai albeit just a short while. He can’t be having time to fight every one of them if he’s really going to save Ace so I guess it’s best to leave it to his comrades and Whitebeard’s allies since that big old guy seems to have trust and faith in him. The Marines are going to shut the pirates in via some solid defence wall. If not for Oars Jr’s dead body preventing the entire area to be closed off and provides a small opening for the pirates to charge forward into the plaza.

More fighting takes place as Ace is in a dilemma and feeling crushed that everybody is going all out to save him and starts wondering would it have been easier if he was just executed. Not from his allies’ point of view. They’re going to rescue him no matter what. Sengoku launches his sneaky strategy by ordering the execution of Ace before the scheduled time, stopping all broadcasts of the war, rounding up the pirates fighting at the entrance with the Pacifistas cornering them and playing mind games on one of Whitebeard’s allies, Squard so that he himself stabs Whitebeard thinking he betrayed him. Don’t worry, that guy is big enough not to be killed by such as a stab though weakened. Of course he realized it was all a trap but you can’t do anything by crying. The charge forward continues as Akainu uses his magma meteor move to melt the ice and have the pirates drown. Luckily for Luffy, he is being propelled over the walls by Jimbei and he begins his fight with the admirals. And the other pirates manage to also breakthrough after riding on one of Whitebeard’s submerged ship that paddles them right through the wall. I guess after watching all the horror of fighting, Coby decides to get into the thick of the action by facing Luffy if he’s ever going to achieve his dream of becoming the admiral of the Marines. Too bad he gets knocked out on first hit. Yeah, note the total difference in their power, dude. He’s got a long way to go.

Escape From The Marine Base Arc
Sengoku orders the execution of Ace now so Luffy unknowingly unleashes his Haki and causes a big portion of both sides to collapse. As Luffy climbs up to the plaza where Ace is, he is faced with Garp. But Garp hesitated and contributed to his loss. When Luffy finally reaches up to Ace, Kizaru destroys the key with his light beam. Sengoku transforms into a giant Buddha to crush the brothers. Previously, Mr 3 sneaked in and disguised himself as one of the executioners. When he regains consciousness, he creates a duplicate key with his wax power to free Ace and as the platform collapses but before taking them out, Ace uses his fire powers to land them to safety. He’s back in business. So now after rescuing him, they have to escape. Seems to be perfectly fine till Akainu starts mocking Whitebeard. Ace will not let him have his way and attacks him though he knows pretty well he is playing into his hands. Akainu is going to kill Luffy so Ace uses his body to protect him. As a result, Ace dies. It’s no joke! He’s really dead! After all this attempt to free him and now he’s gone?! Whitebeard is absolutely mad as he pounds Akainu. Never underestimate the wrath of an angry father. I’m amazed he is still alive. Whitebeard orders his crew to escape while Jimbei takes Luffy (in shock and unconscious) away. He singlehandedly takes on all the Marines and this proves that quality is better than quantity. However things aren’t going to end pretty seeing that Blackbeard and his crew show up. He reveals his plans of becoming a Shichibukai just to break into Impel Down and rescue his other crew members. Whitebeard faces off with Blackbeard and the former has the advantage. Till chicken Blackbeard uses a dirty trick and orders his members to kill Whitebeard. Having no regrets, after all the hundred bullets, cannons and sword slashes taken, he dies standing! OMG! It really gives a new meaning to that term. He is sure one tough old bugger… Say, the large hole right in his chest, doesn’t that remind you of those Hollows in Bleach?

With Whitebeard really gone, Blackbeard fights Sengoku and Garp while the other emotional pirates continue to make their getaway. Akainu is still hot on Luffy’s trail. He is pretty adamant of not letting that pirate go scot free. Luffy can consider himself pretty lucky because Trafalgar Law’s submarine emerges in time to take Luffy in. The submarine submerges full steam beneath, barely escaping from Aokiji’s freezing blocks of ice. Man, at this rate, he can freeze up the entire ocean! Then Shanks and his crew showed up, Blackbeard and his team makes a strategic retreat. With Sengoku’s permission, Shanks will conduct a proper burial for Whitebeard and Ace. Then Sengoku declares the war is over and orders those who are still able to help those injured. With the world celebrating the end of the greatest war (of course the Marines won lah), Law manages to stabilize Luffy’s condition. Yeah, he’s a doctor. Hancock, with an excuse to pursue Luffy, offers Law’s crew to board her ship and seek refuge back at Amazon Lily. I guess for the first time, the island allows in a bunch of men though they are confined to a particular corner of the island. Jimbei stays by Luffy’s side. And when he wakes up, reality hits him that Ace is dead for good. We have never seen Luffy cried so bad like this (not from what I can remember) so much so he went into shock.

Luffy & Ace’s 10 Years Prior Arc
So traumatized by Ace’s death, that Luffy’s shock mode allowed us to peek into his untold story when he was a kid with Ace back in West Blue. Ten years ago, Garp forced mountain bandit leader, the big fat Curly Dadan to take care of Luffy. She already got her hands full with Ace but do you think she has a choice? Ace didn’t like Luffy much but that didn’t stop Luffy from bugging and following him wherever he went (including a gigantic junk area where the unwanted lives, Gray Terminal). Ace had another friend named Sabo and they’re collecting (more accurately, stealing) and stashing treasures and valuables as kick-start to their pirate dream. Do you need so much money to become a pirate? Till they stepped on the toes of Porchemy, a ruthless pirate of the Bluejam Pirates. They stole his loot and of course which pirate would feel insulted if a young lad did you in. Unfortunately Luffy’s blundering ways got him captured. Ace and Sabo fear that he would spill the whereabouts of the treasure, but as time passes they notice the pirates are still looking for it. Luffy takes a whacking but remains to keep mum. This is when Ace and Sabo enter and rescue him and beat the pirates to shame. Unfortunately for Porchemy, he got killed by the big bad boss Bluejam himself for being such a useless embarrassment.

With this, Luffy becomes part of Ace and Sabo’s group as they swore to be blood brothers. At the same time honing their skills (Luffy always loses out as he can’t control his powers yet) as it is vital for survival in this land. Oh, don’t mention the discrimination among the people too. Especially those living in the inner city walls, they are made up of stuck-up nobles and royals. While the trio are running their usual eat-for-free tactics in the city, Sabo’s dad spots his son, whom he believed to have died long ago. The trio also decide to live independently instead of Dadan’s shack. Might as well, since they never listened to her anyway. They continue to power up like fighting a badass tiger to see who will become captain of their pirate crew (everybody wants to be a leader) and also meet an old geezer who was once a pirate captain and fought Gold Roger. But their carefree days are numbered when Sabo’s dad enlists the help of Bluejam to look and bring back for his son. They know where Sabo’s whereabouts is all the time but remain silent so his dad would be more anxious with each passing minute. Sabo reluctantly goes back to his father so that his brothers could be spared. Bluejam makes Luffy and Ace do some work planting boxes around Gray Terminal while Sabo is made to live and learn like noble. All I can say is, if daddy knows Sabo’s stubbornness not to change (he still believes he was influenced by the other 2 to become a pirate), why is he so stubborn in forcing Sabo to live the life of a noble. I mean, he already adopted another stuck-up stupid kid (perhaps he was just a back-up in case) and Sabo keeps running away from home only to be caught, so is daddy stupid or something too? Just let him go and pretend he never came back lah!

Then Sabo learns the horrifying news that a Tenryuubito is visiting the place (another f*cking obnoxious guy because his lineage thinks they are hell of a grand for being pioneers of something so much so they look down on everybody and do not breath the same air with the commoners) so the rich and famous have this crazy idea of burning up Gray Terminal down to the ground, leaving nothing. Thus the reasons boxes of explosives were placed all over the place. So when the fireworks really start, Sabo tries to warn his brothers but couldn’t make it in time. He meets Dragon who realizes that this city and the world is crap because a kid like Sabo is saying that he won’t be truly free in this town. Bluejam is confident that he and his crew will be alive because he made a deal with Sabo’s dad. Unfortunately, he realized he has been tricked and left to die in the fire. Yeah, as a ruthless pirate, he should’ve seen this coming. They try to kill Ace and Luffy but Dadan and her guys come to rescue. Even if she hates those boys, she still treats them as her children. After all, they are put under her care by Garp. Don’t want to earn his wrath, right? The bandits take Luffy and run while Dadan and Ace team up to beat Bluejam. Dragon lets some of the Gray Terminal people on board his ship. At the end of the big fire, the place is nothing but ashes. Luffy and the bandits are worried about Ace and Dadan’s fate but they soon came back. Seems after they beat Bluejam, great fire walls (not the internet one lah) blocked their path. Dadan used her body as shield as she runs through the blaze. With her body badly injured, Ace takes care of her in the woods.

On the day the Tenryuubito is to arrive, everyone in town waits with baited breath for his arrival. Since the entire town is deserted, Sabo is left with just a guard sleeping on the job. It doesn’t take him long to knock him out and escape. But I guess he chose the wrong time to escape because his little stolen dinghy crosses the path of the magnificent Tenryuubito’s ship. Everyone at the port is shocked to see something like this but nobody could do anything. Even shocking for Sabo’s parents to see their child doing such a brave act. See, after all the trouble he has put them, why didn’t they disown him? Better make donno. Sabo is leaving peacefully but the f*cker Tenryuubito didn’t like a commoner passing by and shoots his ship with a bazooka!!! F*CK!!! Sabo is killed! News of Sabo’s death reaches Ace and Luffy and they couldn’t believe he’s gone. Sabo had previously written a letter for them which states that he is going out to sea to gain true freedom (but he gained another kind of freedom instead) and also wants Ace to promise to look after Luffy. For the next 7 years, Luffy and Ace train hard. Then Ace leaves the island followed by Luffy 3 years later. He shows us that he has greatly improved his rubber skills by taking out a giant sea monster with a single blow.

In pieces…
Yeah, I have to admit that it has been a long draggy affair. The whole year was void of Luffy’s Straw Hat Pirates crew members. Though we see a continuation somewhere between the arcs, their unfinished respective storyline indicates that there is still more to come as it obviously hasn’t ended yet. No Zorro, no Sanji, no Nami, no Usopp, no Chopper, no Robin, no Brook and no Franky. Not even those Super Nova rookie pirates on Shabondy Archipelago (only short cameos – including Law’s). I’m sure it must have been a real good break for them, eh? It was a real shocker that Ace and Whitebeard died. Maybe sometime in the future, they will be revived again? I don’t know, I thought this series doesn’t really like killing off characters seeing that on several occasions, characters that are once thought to be dead came back alive or are at least shown their whereabouts.

The funny part about this past whole year of escaping Impel Down and rescuing Ace was the fact that it felt like it was so close, yet so far. It took Luffy half a year to break in and out of the prison and another half a dozen months to rescue Ace. Because of so, each time I snickered and thought to myself, “Hey, they’re still running at this point. How big is this damn Marine base anyway?”. Yeah, they’re still running towards the plaza. Like as though they’re never getting close to it. Like a mirage. And I thought after running a considerable distance, I really thought they should be closer. Looks like the whole place is bigger than it seems. Or are they just running around in circles? It’s also odd that if this place is so big, how come everyone can hear the other so clearly? It’s not like there are loud speakers everywhere and even if there are echoes, wouldn’t the cacophony of the cannons and explosions drown it all out? As for Ace, I really wanted to ask him, “Hey bro, are you tired of kneeling on the platform for 6 months watching the battle unfurl?”. Yeah, so was his death justified in the end?

Another thing which bugged me was the number of casualties on both sides. You know, they been fighting so long and you can obviously see the low level Marines and pirates being killed. But as you go along, you don’t really see much dead bodies scattered around. Maybe even none. So really, are their numbers that overwhelming because the way they show it, it’s like an entire continent worth of armies preparing for a major battle if you ask me. So after they have fallen down, do they get up the fight and resume their battle? Maybe. You won’t notice that these low level guys may look the same and are clones! Can you tell really tell them apart? Plus, after all that tremendous destruction, it’s a miracle that Marine’s HQ is still standing. I thought the entire place would’ve sunk by now. Another point that I have been pondering is the Devil Fruit. As we all know that there is only 1 of each type in this world and no duplicate. Seeing the amount of Devil Fruit users appearing, I’m wondering if the future of this world will be void of anymore Devil Fruits since they’ve all been eaten up. Will the world be a boring place or a safer place with the lack of them anymore? Whatever will be, I’m sure the world will change due to the effects of the Whitebeard-Marine war. Which major battle in history never leaves a long lasting effect for its generations to come?

There were really lots of amusing characters that comes in all shapes, sizes and even personalities. For instance the prisoners who broke out from Impel Down and swore their allegiance to Buggy, they really have a damn positive attitude. What do I mean? Buggy sure has gotten himself into lots of trouble seeing that those blokes can come up with lots of reasons for Buggy’s indecisiveness and hail him as their great leader. Deep down in that clown’s heart, he’s just a coward and each time he wants to break free, he just can’t and has to live up to their expectations. Whoever said being a pirate is easy? Then Whitebeard’s division commanders from the looks, appears to have come from all sort of designs thrown in together. Let’s see. Among them we have a big hulking Viking guy, a big He-man resembling guy, a large biker-like guy smoking a cigar, a cross-dresser, a prince and a fish guy. If you really want to tell a story and dedicate several episodes on how they came to join Whitebeard’s crew, I think I will pass. And yeah, everyone still has that herd mentality. They get depressed so easily when the tide is unfavourable but get their hopes up in an instant they get some morale booster. For all those reporters watching the battle at Shabondy Archipelago, it’s like everything they see is such a big deal to report. Don’t even mention about the crying part. Many of the characters were like so emotional for instance when Whitebeard is about to die, etc. Hey, even grownup men and mean pirates cry. They’re human after all.

Since it’s only been a year or so, so I guess there is nothing much or any drastic changes. The cartoonish-like drawing is still there, the voice acting, the mid-intermission, its trademark jokes and the draggy action and flashbacks. The series still doesn’t intend on having an ending credit or theme so I guess it saves a lot. So far in that span of over a year, there is only one change in the opening theme. Currently it is One Day by The Rootless, a fitting moderate rock piece on the direction that this series is heading to. That is what you call consistency rather than changing it after a few episodes.

So the adventure may be still at halfway point and though it won’t be ending anytime soon (unless…) I’ll still be sticking around to catch how all this is going to turn out. Despite the draggy affair, somehow it must be the mysterious way the producers made it to retain viewers’ interest in addition to staying true to the manga. That’s why it is still so popular not just in Japan but elsewhere in the world today. There are too many questions that need answers like what is really the One Piece and the many other characters that will come into play. Whether or not they have an answer at the end, it’s not the end of the journey that counts, it is the timeless romance of the voyage with your crew that is the real treasure and perhaps my guess the One Piece that everyone is so crazily looking for.

Hiyokoi

July 8, 2011

When I think about girl-meets-boy love relationship that has a difference in heights, I always think of Lovely Complex. However it isn’t a tall girl and a short boy but the other way round in Hiyokoi. This is a single episode OVA based on the shoujo manga of the same name that is currently on-going. So if you like this kind of high school romance genre, then you’d be able to enjoy this one too.

Hiyori Nishiyama is a petite and very shy girl. Perhaps it is that very reason why she doesn’t make many friends. She goes back to school for the first time because as we learn, she was hit by a truck during the opening ceremony and was hospitalized. It’s a miracle she didn’t die. Thankfully she doesn’t have to stay back and repeat a year since she had a home tutor to catch up with school work during her hospitalization. On the first day of her return, Hiyori is so shy in introducing herself in front of her class, that even their homeroom teacher didn’t realize she went into hiding underneath the teacher’s rostrum. The whole class must have been puzzled like as though she’s introducing a ghost. So when Hiyori finally manages to stand in front of the class and summon every ounce of her courage to introduce herself, then comes in the cool slacker, Yuushin Hirose. Introduction, interrupted. The first thing he notes about her is her short stature. And this guy is pretty tall! It’s an obvious difference. The class starts to get amused by this fact while Hiyori continues to tremble.

Thankfully Hiyori’s best friend, Ritsuka Nakano is in the same class and looks like she is the only person she can open up to. As they talk about Hiyori’s unfortunate circumstances, Hiyori’s ‘unfortunate’ streak continues when her seat is placed next to Yuushin. And he’s staring at her. He’s been wondering what Hiyori looks like and then it hit him: A little chick (in Japanese, that word is ‘hiyoko’). That’s because she is small and fluffy. Everyone is amused but Hiyori feels Yuushin is quite a rude person. Probably she got confused and scared so she introduces herself again. Over the next few scenes, Hiyori gets unwanted attention because of the glaring height difference between the duo that makes easy gags. She also notices him sleeping in the middle of class (noisily) and even eating lunch. Yuushin makes Hiyori his ‘accomplice’ when he stuffs a food into her mouth. So when the teacher finds out, he thinks they’re already into this sort of developed relationship. Of course everyone laughs but to Hiyori, she gets very embarrassed. There goes her peaceful and quiet days.

During recess, Hiyori talks to Ritsuka how bothersome it has become for her due to Yuushin’s bad habits and the other girls wanting to talk to her. Ritsuka thinks this is a chance for her to overcome her shyness. She continues that she may find someone she likes everyone and since Yuushin makes friends with everyone, she thinks Hiyori will have more friends if she gets along with him. They go back to class but Hiyori is still hesitant to go talk to him (since he is talking with the other guys). Classmate Natsuki Aizawa snaps her out of her worrying and hands her a sheet that the teacher wanted her to pass to Hiyori. Hiyori feels there is a distant between her and Yuushin seeing that Yuushin is quite cheery and always smiling. In a class whereby Hiyori forgot to bring her textbook, Yuushin shares one with her. Albeit he too forgot his own and borrowed this textbook from the other guy. The atmosphere is getting awkward for Hiyori since they’re this close so Yuushin loosens her up a little by drawing a cute chick. This causes Hiyori to laugh and thus the teacher ‘warns’ them to stop flirting. As usual, the class bursts into laughter and Yuushin even had a comeback by saying that the teacher shouldn’t be jealous. Yuushin’s intention was to find out if Hiyori could laugh in front of others than Ritsuka. He is relieved and believes she should start laughing. She notes he is observant.

After school, Hiyori thinks back about Yuushin and some of the other stuffs. She notices that many people have remembered her name even if it is just the first day. Then she spots Yuushin. He puts both his index finger on the edge of his mouth to indicate a smile so she too does the same. Next morning, Hiyori sees that she and Yuushin are on class duties today. When the homeroom teacher comes in, she sees the blackboard still not cleaned and calls out the one who is supposed to be on duty. Hiyori ruses up front but before she could start cleaning, Yuushin points out that her slip is showing. He starts laughing about her woolly panties with a chick pattern but realizes his mistake too late. By that time Hiyori had become totally embarrassed and ran out from the class. Hiyori locks herself in a room crying while Yuushin comes looking for her. He mentions about someone finally sitting next to him because all the while he has always been sitting there because he didn’t want to block anyone’s view. Just then Hiyori barge out from hiding (she was actually in the closet behind rather than in the room that Yuushin believed she was in). In tears, she mentions about her fear of going to school. He consoles her about being scared because it is unfamiliar or familiar. And if it’s unfamiliar, all she needs to do is get used to it. He wipes her tears away as she realizes it was herself who created a barrier in the first place. The other concerned classmates come looking for them. Then Yuushin shows them it is snowing outside so everyone skips class to go play outside. Hiyori didn’t cry when she gets hit by a snowball, but laughed with everyone else instead. Back in class, Hiyori musters up her courage to ask Yuushin to borrow a textbook she forgot. However he is sleeping. However he isn’t in deep sleep as he hands it over. Hiyori comments that now she has someone she likes. She spots his drawing of a chick and notes it is horrible.

Cheeky Love
Just like any short OVAs, I find this enjoyable in its own pace. Whether or not it will continue with more OVA episodes in the future or be adapted into a full TV series is another matter. It is quite heart-warming to see how Hiyori managed to break out from her shell and fear of mixing around with the rest. Though it may seem a little unrealistic because it happens in a span of a few days when normally it should take a longer length for a person who has phobia to get over it. I mean, look at it this way. If you have stage fright for a very long time in your life, you’re not going to just overcome it overnight by practising non-stop or encouraging and supporting words.

Somehow this series also reminds me closely of Kimi Ni Todoke, especially the main characters. For instance, Yuushin is very much like Kazehaya. He is cool, cheerful, smiling, easily makes friends and is popular with lots of people. It may be premature but just like in Kimi Ni Todoke, Yuushin takes an interest in the new girl, just like how Kazehaya did for Sawako. Hiyori may not be like Sawako in the sense she doesn’t look like some ghost from a famous horror movie (in fact, she is totally cute and moe), it is her inability to make friends at first though it is what she desired very much deep down. I’m sure she has the self-confidence to move forward now. If you’re wishing for any chemistry, then that’ll be another story. Since Hiyori already mentioned her feelings at the end, it’s not hard to see how this is going. But with Yuushin by her side, Hiyori doesn’t mind standing out (no pun intended). Suddenly I have this picture in mind: Due to the height difference, I wonder how they’re going to kiss. He’s got to bend quite a lot or she has to stand on something taller, doesn’t she?

Ayana Taketatsu definitely fits her role as shy Hiyori. But sometimes I can’t feel that she sounded so much like Azusa from K-ON! Which by the way, she was the voice of that character too. Kenichi Suzumura does the voice behind Yuushin (Sougou in Gintama, Chika in Zombie Loan, Yuuya in Super Gals and Junpei in Ichigo 100%). So overcoming one’s shyness maybe all it takes is just the right person and a little nudge. Sometimes much more effective than attending all those motivational courses. Perhaps I should try getting a girlfriend this way too. Tall or short, shy or not, as long as she’s smiling and laughing, I wouldn’t mind.

Yumeiro Patissiere

July 2, 2011

Mmm… Yummy… Food for thought. After watching a handful of animes, some leaving a bad aftertaste in the mouth, some sourish, some with that unsatisfied and un-full feeling and just several enjoyable ones, I thought to myself that I need to go for something sweet. That’s when I thought of giving Yumeiro Patissiere a go. That’s right. I love eating sweet things especially chocolates so I was hoping for some savoury treats while watching this series. In my opinion, as far as the tasty pastries are concerned, they do not disappoint. At least visually. Now my mouth is getting watery even as I type this blog.

Those seeking inspiration or aspire to be a patissiere (that is a fancy French term for what most of us would call a pastry chef), may look to this series as a start but still, don’t expect to perform miracles after watching all 50 episodes of the first season. You still need practice, practice and more practice. Yeah, not just making tasty pastries but the need to make them look good, glossy and delicious so that all those who take a bite from them would really feel like they’re eating a piece of Heaven in their mouths. Damn, I need to have one right now! Because long running series that span over a year or so, you know my style of not going into real detail. So for those who wish to have additional references can go to Wikipedia and Mania Beyond Entertainment as both these sites I frequent for references.

As usual, such genres will have a main hero and in this case, a heroine by the name of Ichigo Amano. Like most protagonists that start out, this 14 year old middle school girl is well, a klutz, talentless (good for nothing if you want to put it in another way) and an airhead. Yeah, not a good way to introduce things but hey, it’s a fact. She’s got a habit of tripping and falling down stairs so much so you’d think it’s her destiny to do so when she goes down one. But being so has its good points. She’s carefree (in a good sense), happy, loves to help those in need and a pig glutton (she’d prefer the term ‘big-eater’). You think the last one isn’t a good point? Think about this. You’re a girl and have a bottomless stomach. Way better than the Black Hole. You can swallow any kind of food, fatty and filled with cholesterol without gaining a single pound. That has got to be a blessing, right? Her destiny to become a patissiere begins when she was eating (the word ‘eating’ is underrated) at a cake shop after her little sister Natsume‘s piano competition. Top French patissiere, Henri Lucas was there to showcase his talent and he was amazed by Ichigo’s superb sense of palate. Coincidentally, Ichigo’s late grandma, Michiko had once studied in the renowned St Marie Academy, a place where professional patissieres are made. Guess what too? Henri’s great grandmother founded the academy and his grandfather was Michiko’s tutor. Yeah, this has got to be more than just fate. Ichigo finally decides that her true calling is to become a patissiere and plans to enrol in St Marie’s Japan branch. Though her mom and Natsume are supportive, but it’ll take a little more nudging before he allows her little girl to realize her dream. I understand him as a father will sorely miss his daughter when she’s gone, not to mention the possibility of bad boys wanting to ‘eat’ her. Sooner or later, he has got to let the bird fly out from the nest.

Ichigo is as excited as ever after successfully enrolling at St Marie. To put icing on the cake, she is being paired in a group with 3 good looking guys: Makoto Kashino, Sennosuke Andou and Satsuki Hanabusa. How come a new transfer student and a total beginner gets to be paired with hotties in Group A? Well, one thing, Ichigo is sure ‘famous’ since word has it that Henri was the one that recommended her. Expect envy from other b*tches. However those 3 guys aren’t just looking good for decoration as they have the skills to prove and live up to their name as the Sweets Princes. Moody and prickly Kashino is a chocolate specialist (always constantly arguing and reprimanding Ichigo. Yeah, you know what they say about couples that fight a lot), polite and calm Andou is Kashino’s childhood friend whose family has been making Japanese confectionery, Yumetsuki for generations and lady-killer and narcissist Hanabusa has his strong points in candy sculpture, designing and flower arrangement. Wow. Now I can see why many would feel irk for Ichigo to be in this group. Feels like a reverse harem, doesn’t it?

Of course Ichigo knows nothing about making pastries but you know her hidden talent in making them (but some after hundreds of tries and practice), you can tell she’ll just get by. Although Makoto may be harsh on her, scolding her each time she screws up or her density about not reading up or just common sense (maybe that’s his way of showing his love. Tsundere…), at least she’s got kind Andou and Hanabusa to help her out nicely. She’s really lucky. Another thing about this academy is the belief in the Sweets Spirits legend. What’s that? Little chibi spirits from the Sweets Kingdom that seem to pair themselves with a patissiere student so that they can be patissieres back at the Royal Court in the kingdom by sending pictures of cakes and sweets made back to the kingdom via the Queen’s portrait. Like a twinning programme, eh? A symbiotic relationship that provides benefit for both? Hmm… Note how the top students have Sweets Spirits with them? Cheating? Don’t worry. Though the Sweets Spirits can sprinkle some magic on the cake, decorating and providing pleasing eye candy, it is basically the students’ own effort that makes their respective sweets delicious. In addition, for those who do not have Sweets Spirits, they can’t see them though at times they can faintly hear them. You’re not hearing things, eh? So yeah, Ichigo has got Sweets Spirits Vanilla who specializes in, well, vanilla. Kashino’s is Chocolat who makes good, erm, chocolate. Duh. Andou’s is Caramel who does well in… Yeah, you’ve guessed it. Finally Hanabusa is Cafe. What kind of flavour does he provide? Coffee lah. Each of the Sweets Spirit not only provides comic relief with their cutesy antics but morale support and booster to our protagonists as well. Then there are other supporting characters at the academy as well such as Ichigo’s dorm-mate-cum-best-friend, Rumi Katou, other supportive classmates like Kanako Koizumi, Miki Mori and Sayuri Kanda.

The most interesting one has got to be Miya Koshiro (love her or hate her). The daughter and “Heiress” of the internationally famous sweets delivery company Chateau Seika is Kashino’s self-proclaimed lover and isn’t shy or afraid to show her utmost affection for that little kid in public. The reason she fell in love with him was because he did not hesitate to condemn her pastry skills when they first met. She liked how he was being honest with her unlike everybody else who was just putting up a fake front to please her. Regretting it, boy? I smell a love triangle coming up. Not that oblivious Ichigo and Kashino would know about. I guess Kashino knows her so well that you can say he can really avoid her ‘rushing hugs’ whenever she makes her obnoxious grand entrance (coupled in with her trademark annoying arrogant laughter). She has 2 loyal servants, Satou and Shiotani who will gladly serve out her whims and fancies and as a bloody filthy rich girl, she gets to buy all the best ingredients to hire the best patissieres to make the best sweets and cakes in the world. But even so, there are things that money can’t buy. Like Kashino’s heart. Can’t buy me love, baby. Don’t you know? A way to a man’s heart is through his stomach? And even if she does practice 24/7, you still can’t beat a pro who has been practising for umpteenth years. But will that stop Miya? Noooo… Just like Ichigo, her perseverance in pursuing Kashino’s love is admirable. You’re in one big sh*t and long ride, pal.

So in the long journey that Ichigo and the Sweets Princes’ goal to become professional patissieres, most of the initial episodes are in this kind of format. We see Ichigo and her group trying to come up with sweets for a particular theme or occasion such as Kanako’s little kindergarten sister, Ringo’s birthday and putting up jealous b*tches that craftily steal their design. Of course, they don’t go blaming or even tell on the culprits and even come up with their own new design with limited time. Wow. That’s why they’re all so talented, including beginner Ichigo who has got a knack for creativity as well. There is a part Ichigo goes a step further by observing a customer’s sweets habits and preferences and customizes her sweets accordingly to their tongue. Is it hard to see why the Sweets Princes follow her (heh, Kashino just don’t want to admit it)? Then they also go solve other people’s problems via their delicious creations (if words don’t help, eating something does. Logic, right?) such as helping Andou’s youngest sibling, Ichita to realize big brother’s dream of opening his own branch that fuses Western and Eastern sweets, helping a depressed customer to reunite with his loved one after 7 years abroad playing for a jazz band, helping a friend Hayami regain her confidence to continue since she was on the verge of quitting school because of her diminishing grades (due to non-interest by her group members, she was relegated from a top group to the lowest), making friends with a group of travelling circus band, help the husband-and-wife dorm landlady and landlord to make up and remember the reason why they stayed on in this academy, rejuvenating Natsume when she is down and planning to quit piano, a field trip to a dairy farm, a cruel prank to leave Ichigo lost in the forest by those jealous b*tches in which it leads her to the room of student council president (nobody has been in there before so for Ichigo to do so is such an honour and amazement) and Henri’s favourite top genius student, Mari Tennouji (her Sweets Spirit is Honey), and of course the pudding battle or Valentine showdown with Miya over Kashino (no prizes to guess who comes out tops). Miya also gets her own Sweets Spirits: Marron.

The series also deals with some flashbacks such as Ichigo’s past on how she enjoyed the sweets Michiko made in her shop and came to realize her calling in this trade and the day the Sweets Princes meet but loggerheads Kashino and Hanabusa didn’t see eye to eye till an accident in the forest strengthened their friendship as they made madeleines to commemorate it. We also have glimpses of the Sweet Spirits quartet going back to their kingdom to help out with the New Year preparations or to take a supplementary exam or else they’ll fail for good. Even Ichigo had a chance of going back there in her chibi form (since everyone in the campus had gone home for the holidays, leaving her alone. What else better to do?), accidentally meet the naughty trio called Jerks and helping them out with their project. Hmm… They have this uncanny resemblance and personality to the Sweets Princes… Kasshi? Andy? Narcy? Very similar indeed… Sure they’ve done something unspeakable like cheating to be expelled and even plan on some grand revenge to ruin it, but in the end, the Queen saw their sincerity and accepted them back.

Basically a big chunk of the series is about the main competition event of St Marie called Cake Grand Prix. Groups of 4 can participate in this tournament and facing off with other teams depending on the sweets’ theme designated and winners will advance to the next round if they score higher than their opponents by the judges based on design, originality and taste among the several criteria. The winner would of course have the privilege to study at the main campus in France. Sounds nice, eh? What a better way than to hone your skills further in a country famous for its sweets. As for Ichigo, it is also her dream to meet Henri. The Sweets Princes partly also garnered famed when they participated last year and was the first freshmen to advance to the next round but failed due to Miya’s fiasco and failure. To ensure Ichigo doesn’t flop, she has to undergo lots of physical and mental training from the Sweets Princes. No pain, no gain! Who said being a patissiere is easy? Since there are too many middle schoolers participating this year, a qualifying round is held to trim down the participants. Each of them have to enter a hall and walk through a choice of doors as answers they think right in a series of questions about the pound cake they have just sampled. If a member fails, the whole team fails. The Sweets Princes are particularly worried about Ichigo. I can see why. Even if she’s such a blur case, she didn’t get by via luck as she remembers hard the lessons she learn and much to the relief of her comrades, the whole team qualifies for the qualifying round. The guys also decide to make Ichigo their team leader and thus their team name will be Team Ichigo. A klutz as their leader? Probably the same reason why Luffy is the captain for the Straw Hats Pirates. Sixteen teams have made it (I guess it’s easier for us to turn it into a direct knockout) with 10 from third years, 5 from second years and first years only have 1. The format of the tournament won’t bore you since we will be briefly told what they are making and how they are making it. Yeah, just show the bits and parts of the action before the judging. You already know which team will advance, right? After each round, there will be a slight break (some may call it fillers) to see Team Ichigo in other action apart from their Cake Grand Prix competition before the next round begins.

Amidst all that, we get to see members of Team Ichigo aren’t completely perfectionists since they have their own problems too. The odd thing is that whenever they are down, they have this tendency to want to quit the academy. That’s more like running away! Ichigo must have started the trend since after too many shelling from Kashino, she thinks she would be better off doing something else and ran away back home without permission. The Sweets Princes wouldn’t let her go just like that and go all the way to bring her back by making her realize that she does best making people smile with her sweets. Of course, after wasting daddy’s money like that, don’t tell me you want to just easily quit! Just made that one up, hehe. Then we have Hanabusa about his rosewater bottle flavour thingy because it brought back tragic memories of how his dad died in France while holding that bottle as his last gift for his son. Kashino comes from a family of doctors (they have a whole building with doctors bearing the same surname! Imagine the chaos of calling a specific one!) so his dream of opening a chocolatier in Paris is not approved by his strict and stubborn parents (ultimately his sister does though not directly). And Andou, he does the same after a losing a match. But that’s what friends are for. They stick around through ups and downs. Can’t stay gloomy forever, eh? Maybe they need to take a breather once in a while and relax and get new ideas rather than getting all cooked up in the kitchen all day long practising.

The Cake Grand Prix’s first round has Team Ichigo facing Team Ichimatsu, third years who have their cakes featured in the Salon de Marie (a cafeteria in the campus in which if your cake is featured here on the menu, it means it must be damn good). However Team Ichimatsu is cocky and arrogant, looking down on Team Ichigo. Yeah, mistake number one. Without going into details, Team Ichigo wins the pound cake and family theme contest. In the quarter-finals, they face the only first year team, Team Lemon. Lemon Yamagishi is from the main campus and has been transferred to Japan upon request by Henri. The friendship-themed round ended in a draw and a rematch had to be done (Ichigo who had fallen to Lemon’s ruse and surprisingly Andou contributed to their lost) and this time, Team Ichigo wins it. Lemon reveals she boasted about her top grades in the main campus so Henri wasn’t amused and sent her to Japan to observe Ichigo. Plus, her other members only let her joined in since they thought she was Henri’s favourite pupil. Lemon learns her lesson and returns to France, vowing to become a better patissiere. In the semi-finals, they face Team Koshiro. Finally an official bout between the ‘love rivals’. The theme for this round is love. Something Kashino isn’t happy with. To make things interesting, Miya wages that if Team Ichigo loses, Kashino must join them. Wait, is that legal? Team Ichigo gets off to a nightmare start when Ichigo unknowingly shows her cake design to classmate Youko Ayukawa who happens to be on Miya’s team and a spy. They got their design stolen and Miya has got some famous Parisian chocolatier (Monsieur Leon – I guess he must be a real person) to train her and be on the panel of judges. Ichigo works hard all night and comes up with a unique design for her sachertorte but in the end, falls short by a single point! Oh dear! Team Koshiro wins! Oh no! Is this the end? However there is 3rd placing and the winner of this match gets to advance. Ah, I see. Phew. But in the meantime, Kashino has been whisked away to Miya’s team and while contemplating on the theme for the finals, she relegates Youko to be a substitute. See, this is what you get. One bad deed deserves another. Youko may be feeling bad and how she deserves this retribution but kind Ichigo forgives her. Kashino puts his foot down and wants Miya to let him take command of her team. This means he wants Youko to be in the main team while Miya the substitute. However Miya isn’t a total b*tch to sell out her team mate so she fires Kashino from her team and lets Youko back. This doesn’t mean she would be giving up on his love, though. Maybe it’s part of Kashino’s sly plan to get out. So Team Ichigo is a whole again. But it makes you think. Can you really swap team members in the middle of the tournament? As for the finals, Team Koshiro pounds their rivals while Team Ichigo faces Team Kobayakawa with the theme bond (not that 007 agent but ties/connection lah). As expected, Team Ichigo wins by a 7 point margin after paying tribute to all those who have supported them as their bond theme.

The main tournament of the Cake Grand Prix arrives. Team Ichigo is paired with Team Tachibana. As the theme is elegance, Team Ichigo breezes through because the country girls of Team Tachibana’s peacock cake crumbled. Ichigo even wanted a rematch for a fair fight (she probably got too much emotion up in her head) but their fallen opponents accepted their defeat with much graciousness. The other highlight match of the first round is Team Koshiro against Team Tennouji. Miya’s team got trounced as Mari shows her worth of being a top student. I guess this adds to Miya’s list of people for revenge, eh? I don’t know how many rounds they skipped because it is the semi-finals now as Team Ichigo meets Team Natsuki, a bunch of lively girls specializing in serving natural tropical fruits with sweets. Well, it seems that is the theme of this round too. The Sweets Spirits came out with an idea about strawberries so the rest is left up to Ichigo as she creates a dish that sends them into the next round via a single point! The finals will be Team Ichigo versus Team Tennouji. To grace the event, Henri is here as one of the judges. Both Ichigo and Mari are determined to win as they want to be with Henri (obviously you can tell Mari is in love with him). However Henri cautions Mari about chasing his shadow. The theme for the final is ‘dream’. Team Ichigo decides to design a cake that displays all their dreams while Team Tennouji a beautiful swan taking flight. As the time ticks down, Kashino is having problems finishing his Eifel Tower piece. Because of that, points are deducted from Team Ichigo’s total. However one of Team Tennouji’s members didn’t use originality so Henri’s tongue couldn’t be deceived and they got their marks lowered too. In the end, Team Tennouji wins by a single point! Oh no! However as Henri announced, since Team Ichigo did so well and exceed expectations, they are also invited to study at Paris. Oh well. I guess it’s a win-win situation. Yay! Off to Paris! Bonjour mademoiselle, bonjour monsieur.

In Paris, airhead Ichigo is so excited about tasting every French pastry and even got lost. Heck, her French sucks. She meets a cool handsome Italian hunk, Ricardo Benigni AKA Rick. Oh no. Not that the guys in Team Ichigo would want another playboy fooling around with their gal. So the World Cake Grand Prix is about to begin in the main campus. Guess what? Rick is also participating as the main campus’ representative. It’s a small world. But I have to mention several few things about this World Cake Grand Prix. Firstly, if this is where every campus of St Marie gathers for the finals, how come there are a total of only 8 teams? Since 2 are already from Japan, that leaves 6, right? And among the 6, Rick’s team felt a little international since we have Lemon (yeah, it’s her again. But now she has her own Sweets Spirit: Mint) and one from Germany and the other from Greece. As for the rest, they come from other parts of Europe. Hey, there is no team from England?! British make good scones, you know? What about China or even USA? Malaysia have their own unique tasty delights too, you know. Doesn’t feel that international here. Oh yeah, everyone here has Sweets Spirits. So is it a wonder how they made it here? Oh and oh! Miya is also back! How? Apparently her large fortune has her bought over the St Marie campus of Andorra so she’s got another 3 Spanish hunks under her wing. Wait a minute. A tiny country like Andorra has a St Marie school? But not England or China or even USA?! Andorra’s campus is so small, cramp and pitiful that it doesn’t even look like a campus! Mind boggling…

So another direct knockout round as the matches Team Ichigo faced felt like rematches. Yeah, quarter-final match they are already up and against Team Rick. Which means, they’ll be battling against Lemon again but this time in a food wagon. But the stakes get higher because you are now not only required to make delicious sweets, but to make sales and attract customers too. Yeah, should’ve taken up Business Administration, eh? Team Ichigo can’t lose because if they do, Rick will make Ichigo his girlfriend! Hey Kashino, hey Hanabusa, would you really like that? At the end of the competition day, Team Ichigo’s gelato defeats Team Rick’s doughnuts by a single point. Phew. Didn’t I tell you it felt like a rematch since Team Ichigo will face Team Koshiro again in the semi-finals? The location is at Saint-Michel’s castle and they have to make a dress out of sweets. However, the match between Team Ichigo’s Cinderella dress and Team Koshiro’s huge light-emitting dress ends in a tie! Which means a rematch. During the break, both teams are sent to tour Europe. At Neuschwanstein Castle, again what is a match with Koshiro without a wager on Kashino. If she wins, Kashino will marry her right now! The match of the bon-bon chocolates has Team Ichigo besting Team Koshiro this time by a healthy margin of 14 points! Why? Team Ichigo had taken their slow journey across Europe and used all the ingredients they gathered into their dish whereas Team Koshiro flew pass each destination in her helicopter (see the disgusting love design on her heli?) without taking time to absorb and use those experiences in making the chocolates. Looks like another wedding postponed. Safe.

To prevent this from becoming a total rematch, we’re expecting Team Tennouji to win, right? Wrong! They lost! To another France team of the main campus: the all-girls Team Francois. Watching the replay, it seems Mari looked disturbed and couldn’t concentrate so much so her chocolate dress crumbled. She fell into depression since. It is revealed that Mari spotted Henri with Francois Adjani and they were close to each other so much so they seemed like lovers. He was even talking about making her part of his Henri Project. This sight devastated Mari and thus her confidence shattered. Suddenly a shocking revelation that Henri purposely put up an act to see how strong Mari was. He mocks her feelings for him and even mentions that love is not needed to become a patissiere! OMG! Say it isn’t so that Henri’s true colours are turning him to be an antagonist! Ichigo felt sorry for Mari but vows that she will beat Team Francois in the finals after Henri mocks her skills as well. In the finals at Versailles Palace, both teams have 3 hours to make their sweets with several themes and subjects. On a side note, I’m wondering if every of Ichigo’s pals and family members got sponsored to take a flight here and support her. At the end of the day, both sides are tied. What? Again another rematch? This time it will be an individual match-up on batter. What’s this?! Another draw!!! I can’t believe it! Ichigo once again flops but Hanabusa’s loss was merely due to a less popular trend of an ingredient he picked. It won’t be fair if you declare both sides as winners so a final match will decide it all. Each team will pick a representative to battle it out. Francois obviously is chosen but for the Sweets Princes, they think it is a good thing for Ichigo to represent them. Hey, their team name is taken after her, right? They seem to really trust her a lot by now, entrusting the whole fate of the team to her.

Another point to ponder. Each of the battle takes 3 hours, right? There is a 1 hour break in between so come to think of it, don’t you think the finals nearly spent half a day?! Don’t they feel tired? As the final of the finals begin, as expected Francois does her popular signature sweets, Dijonaise au Chocolat while Ichigo improvises on Michiko’s trademark strawberry tart and names it Sourire de l’Ange (Angel’s Smile). Previously, Ichigo in search of the key to her grandma’s strawberry tart’s recipe, went back to the Sweets Kingdom to find the key and chance upon Michiko’s Sweets Spirit. After passing her trial of the original tart’s taste, Ichigo decides not to read or use her recipe because it is fundamental that she creates her own original sweets. And because of that, Ichigo defeats Francois in a high scoring match by 1 point! Deja vu?! Another slim victory! The scores they obtain are close to perfect! Ichigo sure loves winning by a single point. Hooray! Team Ichigo wins!!! Henri’s reasoning why Francois lost was because she seemed contended with her signature dish and didn’t bother to create something original. In the end, it is revealed that Henri purposely said those mean words and took on the role of the bad guy so that Ichigo can improve. Not only that, he felt the sweets industry has stagnated and wanted people to come up with more creative ideas and originality. Shame on me for ever doubting Henri as a baddie. Henri shows a photo of Michiko when she was young studying under his grandfather. Hmm… Looks a lot like Henri and Ichigo. You can say it’s like history repeating itself. Lastly, we see Kashino and Ichigo holding hands! Is it a sign that they’re a couple even if they mention that they won’t let each other know about their feelings?!

Yumeiro Patissiere SP Professional

It’s not really over yet because right after the first season ended, a second season called Yumeiro Patissiere SP Professional with additional 13 episodes. It takes place 2 years after the end of their World Cake Grand Prix victory as Team Ichigo are returning back to Japan for the first time after a couple of years studying in Paris. It must be a relief for Ichigo. Not because she gets to reunite with her friends but rather the amazing and mind boggling part is that her French still sucks! OMG! After 2 years, it makes you wonder how she could communicate with the people of France. Hand signals? Other than that, many of the characters have a slightly grown up and mature look and some of them even have a change in hairstyle like growing long ones (Hanabusa and Andou), cutting it short (Mari) or simply letting it loose (Ichigo and Lemon). However Ichigo’s return to Japan is greeted with some sort of sad news: Team Ichigo is breaking up! Oh no! Say this is not true! Unfortunately it is. Hanabusa and Andou decide to take leave from school and pursue their own dream. As Kashino mentioned, it was Ichigo who indirectly spurred them on during all these years to do so. Kashino himself skips a grade due to his excellent grades but is in the same class with Miya. Oh the horror! Thus with Ichigo’s return, Group A is totally revamped. They include Ichigo, Lemon (looks like she transferred back here again and due to her outstanding grades, is able to skip a grade and be in the same class with Ichigo), Rumi and Johnny McBeal. Johnny who? No, he does not have any relations with that lawyer Ally. Instead, this American transfer student guy may seem like a slacker but his pastry skills are top notch since it is his dream to create original sweets back in America. And you know, Johnny loves greeting girls by carrying them in his arms. Plus, he likes Ichigo so you know what this means, right? Right. The love triangle gets heated up with the appearance of a new character. Johnny and Kashino do not get along well, most of the time arguing. Johnny also has a polite-but-strict Sweets Spirit named Maize who frequently messes up Japanese terms. In this sequel, I guess in a way viewers will be glad we won’t be seeing anymore sweets competition as it takes a more business approach. Hey, when you become a patissiere, not only you have to make good pastries but learn how to run a shop and manage your customers. Damn. Should’ve taken up Business Administration.

However you won’t see the new Group A into action because Henri calls Ichigo, Lemon, Kashino and Johnny (okay, maybe 3/4 of the gang) to be in charge of a main street in his project called Marie’s Garden. Seems like a huge town with lots of shops selling different types of sweets around the world. If it’s bad enough that Johnny and Kashino are loggerheads, it gets even worse when we find out that Johnny’s cousin is Miya!!! MIYA!!! She’s back! Again. Oh damn it! It’s such a small world after all. Apparently Johnny plans to request loads of cash from Miya’s dad and company to create his ideal plan of a sweets theme park but you know, Kashino would prefer to utilize the limited resources they have. Here we go again. Another argument. As the new Team Ichigo decides on what to do for their project, Henri announces the opening of a street filled with different shops of different nationalities selling different sweets. So now you don’t have to travel the world to eat sweets. It’s all right here. Andou’s Yumetsuki is also part of this street. To make this street more competitive, at the end of each month, the shop with the lowest sales will have to close down and a new one will move in and replace it. Andou has Kanako and her friends help out and it seems the shop is attracting lots of customers. However the waiting time causes them to be irritated and with the lack of stock in certain items, they slowly disappear. Andou is further stressed when preliminary results show that his store is in last place and may have to close down. Apparently he is taking upon himself to do everything, causing himself to turn ill. But with advice like Johnny’s Chance Loss and Disposal Loss and the support from his friends, grandpa and Caramel, Andou learns to let everyone help him out (including Hanabusa who has just returned from overseas) and in the end he makes a comeback and his store is saved.

Problems in the real world take a break as the Sweets Spirits return to their kingdom (accidentally taking along Team Ichigo as well) to help the Jerks prepare for an exam in which if they fail, they won’t advance to the next grade. Since the theme is to depict the kingdom, the gang decides to travel around the kingdom to famous landmark and spots to collect its ‘natural ingredients’ to make the ideal theme. Their journey along the way includes meeting Kasshi’s farmer mom, climbing a high crystal mountain top (Kashino and Ichigo temporarily separated as a cue for the lovebirds to spend a little quality time together) and watching the beautiful breathtaking overall view from atop, riding through the powder desert and milky lake, getting lost in the Baum Forest (in which the Jerks were accused by the forest’s master for littering and imprisoned – of course their name cleared and the real culprit turn out to be the master’s grandson), and the Egg Village in which we learn that all Sweets Spirits come from eggs! Holy! Are they like chickens?! Anyway the importance of the Egg Village is to appreciate one’s parents since it takes lots of love and perseverance to get an ‘egg’ and even so it is not guaranteed. The gang collects all the necessary ingredients and have enough time to think up of the rest. During the strict exam (passing means getting all to approve. A single disapproval means total fail), Kasshi uses his mommy dearest vegetables as part of his theme. The judges think they have strayed from the think but when the Queen tastes it, she finds it delicious. In short, they pass!

Back to the real world, Team Ichigo is called to visit Mari in New York. Currently she and Rick are being tasked to handle a shop there as part of Henri’s project. However it seems Mari is having a hard time finding customers so as expected, Team Ichigo is here to help her out. However Mari is also given an ultimatum. If her sales do not reach the expected target, Henri will replace her with someone else. It’s a dog eat dog world in this trade too. Mari is adamant of maintaining her French theme for the shop as an experience of Paris even if those Americans do not know how to appreciate or told her bluntly that “this is America”! Duh? Hanabusa stops by to help out and the love triangle heats up when you realize that the potential lovers of Ichigo are all in one place. To make matters worse, Miya is also in New York. You know why lah. It was pretty hilarious seeing how she got all the large television screens on the streets to play out her undying love for Kashino. Then right in the middle of the busy street, her helicopter somehow manage to ‘kidnap’ Makoto and go on an aerial date. I guess that guy just gave in and go with the flow. As the gang discuss about their plan in change of the design and concept, they have Mari take a break since she haven’t had one when she first started manning this shop. Along the way, she helps a family of blacks by reconstructing their daughter’s wedding cake back to normal. They are delighted with her skills and invited her to the wedding party. That is when Mari realized that this town is about its people. With the help of a dancer friend, Linda who got inspiration from her cakes, Mari also gets inspiration from her. They use coupons as part of their plans to attract customers and slowly they start trickling in. Henri warn them of being too optimistic and counting their chickens before they hatch. That is because Miya plans to open her own branch in New York (partly to settle her old score with Mari) by having celebrities to come and a large outlet at Central Park. But this is a blessing in disguise because the customers who came to Miya’s outlet just came for the free sweets and left soon as the celebrities left. Plus, there were no place to sit down and eat thus making Mari’s place and ideal spot. As for the increasing queue, Linda’s dance performance entertains the waiting customers while the rest have their hands full serving them and Mari coming up with a new sweet. In the end, Mari gets a call from Henri but she is too busy and will call back later. Is she snubbing him? Apparently that’s not how it looks like. She’s in a delicate process making her cake and that call was just Henri wanting to congratulate her of meeting her target.

When everyone returns to Japan, it seems Miya continues to be a pain in the ass for our heroes as she throws down another challenge. Between both sides whereby the winner is decided by the most sales at the start of Marie’s Garden opening. But it seems Johnny has defected from Ichigo’s team and is siding with Miya. Why? Apparently his school fees are paid by her Miya’s dad so in a way he is bound to do as he is told. Plus, since Chateau Seika is a big sponsor of Marie’s Garden, you can bet that Henri has to approve this and their store Beautiful Night Castle (a play on Miya’s name) is a large complex a few stores away from them. Yeah, something about how they want the customers to experience the ultimate cream of the crop experience of eating sweets like the wealthy and nobles. That’s how much money they’ve got. And you can guess what’s in for Miya if she wins, right? Uh huh. Kashino will instantly marry her (‘nice’ delusion she got there) and not only that, Kashino will take on her name! Makoto Koshiro… Hmm… If that isn’t enough, Johnny gets to date Ichigo till they get married! In the even if they lose, they will give up on Kashino and Ichigo. Hanabusa and Andou return to help out and for the first time the original Team Ichigo reunite with Lemon to come up with a counter plan. Hanabusa and Andou confront Kashino and let him know that everybody knows about their relationship. Of course Kashino denies and tries to cover up by saying that his pals too like Ichigo. They admit that they like Ichigo. But for Andou, he decided to give Ichigo to Kashino because he has got his own girlfriend (Kanako) while Hanabusa is too busy to get into any relationship (I thought he was lying) but will attack straight if Ichigo dumps him. Everyone works hard to come up with the design of their shop and new sweets. However with Miya’s advertising at a frightening rate (she’s got her posters just about everywhere!), this depresses Ichigo a little but she can’t stay that way forever as there is work to be done. But it isn’t going to be easy as it is like David against Goliath. Miya shows she is serious as she is a step ahead like handing out free chocolates and even hiring her Andorra guys to back her up though they manage a different shop (if customers buy from their shop, they get discount coupons to buy at Miya’s). Sales at the end of the first day sees Team Ichigo tasting the vast difference and power of Miya and Johnny. While Team Ichigo barely reach their target and only managed a few hundred thousands, Miya and Johnny are already easily into millions! Their Castle is immensely popular and the waiting queue is crazy. Japanese people sure do love queuing. But Team Ichigo didn’t give up and improvise to attract customers like putting a window to display the Sweets Princes making their stuff, doing market research, setting up an online website and their old friends helping out. They make steady paces to catch up so even if Miya isn’t worried, she has to by now even though they are still leading by a convincing amount.

This means that the battle will be settled on Christmas Eve and the side that sells the most Christmas cake will win. I guess Miya ‘played cheat’ by ordering her father’s company employees to come lining up to buy the cakes but would they do so in the cold snowing weather? The end results show that both sides end up in a tie! What the? How can this be? You can say it’s a miracle for this to happen. However Johnny admits that his side actually lost in terms of net profits due to huge advertising and discounts were given to many of their cakes. Yes! Another triumph over Miya and thankfully Kashino lives another day without becoming Mr Koshiro. The next day, Kashino and Ichigo have a very intimate moment at the lake together. Just like us viewers, the Sweets Spirits are anticipating a confession. Well, even if Kashino stops short of saying “I love you”, at least he hugs her and tells her that he wants to be with her. They were about to kiss when Miya and Johnny interrupted. Damn perfect timing. I thought they agreed to give up on them? Well, I guess they could also become sly lawyers because though they agreed to do that, they didn’t say they would give up forever. Yeah, they’d give them up till just yesterday. They start pushing each other so Kashino and Ichigo fall together into the bushes. Though we don’t get to see what really happened, their position and facial expression indicate that they may have locked lips. Then they get a call from Henri and he is happy that Marie’s Garden is so successful that he plans to open one in London. Yup, he needs their help. Are they up to it? You bet.

Having My Cake And Eating It…
Wow. That is quite a sweet ending though it doesn’t pretty much ‘end’ since there will be more challenges for the gang as they go on honing the skills and experiences to achieve their dream. Through the series, we see how the main characters develop out nicely. Ichigo may be still the dreamy airhead but at least she has found what she likes doing best and something that brings everyone around her happy. The Sweets Princes also had their course of direction change for the better after meeting Ichigo. They are able to see things and bring new fresh ideas and motivation from her point of view. Lemon and Mari also changed themselves for the better as it isn’t being number one or just yourself. As for Miya, it’s hard to hate her though some may call her annoying for coming in between Kashino and Ichigo. She may be a recurring ‘villain’ for Team Ichigo but without her, they won’t get to come up with answers and solutions to improve themselves, right? You have to admit that being stubborn and not giving up her love for Kashino as a good persevering point to fight on. And her laughter too… Each time I smile whenever she does that. Henri has a good eye on people and he knows his stuff well. Without favouring or discriminating, he offers not only Ichigo but everyone else the same opportunity to improve and shine. The pacing of the story is also nicely laid out. Especially between the competitions, these fillers aren’t just mindless as we see the protagonist improving their skills and we get to learn more about them and the other side characters even if they just appeared for that episode. It would be boring if we are shown them going from one competition and straight to another. The small arcs in the second season are also nicely set in ‘bite size’.

As we can see, the first season focuses on the Cake Grand Prix tournament but in the second season it’s all about the other stuff like running a shop comes into play. All these elements are important if you want to be a successful patissiere. Just like in any other field, you will have to be an all-rounder if you want to be tops. In the second season, it seems that many of the supporting characters do not make their appearance or enough impact. For instance, I thought it would be Rumi’s turn to shine but she’s still a background character. Natsume and her family didn’t even make their periodical appearance and had they not make that short cameo patronage to Ichigo’s store, we might have all forgotten about them. Also, I noticed that Kashino didn’t do much of his chocolate tempering as seen frequently done in the first season. Same case with Hanabusa and his flowery candy sculpture. Perhaps it’s because he’s going around the world doing so. Mari seems to have that melancholic look in the sequel instead of her previous self that exudes confidence and grace. Is it still has something to do with her love with Henri? It also makes me wonder how long it takes for the Sweets Spirits to become Royal Court patissieres. Well, the youngest of the lot, Mint is 150 years old! Woah! I guess they’ll have to undergo several more pairings before they are successful, eh? How is it for a Sweets Spirits to be with you till your dying day? Say, another funny part is how the Sweets Spirits transport back to their own kingdom via any oven. I just hope they don’t get accidentally burnt when they hop in.

The major eye candy and of course my favourite are the various designs of the many sweets and cakes. Each time they are presented, it makes me want to have a taste of it! It got so annoying that at one point I just thought of swallowing my whole monitor! Of course that didn’t happen. I’m glad to learn a few types of cakes such as macarons and terms such as meringue and add them to my little knowledge of sweets though shamefully I could do better (heck, by the time I finished watching this series and blogging this, I already forgotten many of them! DAMN IT! NOOOOO!). Maybe I should try my hands at being a patissiere? Heck, I only know how to eat ;p. But those who are inspired and wish to start making simple sweets, at the end of each episode there is a segment called Magical Essence in which most of the time we are given short demonstrations and short handy tips on how to make a certain sweets via some famous patissiere. This segment also showcases other stuffs like decorating one’s cake, the reception and premier of this series and other kids trying their hands making their sweets. Mmm… Yummy… There is also a short OVA lasting minutes called Mune Kyun Tropical Island. I find this nonsensical because we see Ichigo and the Sweets Princes stranded on an island. I don’t know how this happened as we see them trying to survive like getting chased by a giant tumbling rock and fishing out a giant fish. Some close intimate moments with Ichigo too and a disgusting one whereby Hanabusa is admiring his beautiful self amidst the waterfall. In the end, the Sweets Spirits ate too much and turned into giants the next day. Huh?

As for the overall drawing and art of the characters, they lean more towards cute since the characters have sparkly bright eyes as I feel it is aimed towards young teenage girls. As for the exaggerated reactions, I say this is a must in every anime that has food as its main theme. I’m not going so far as to say that the judges’ reaction are really funny when tasting the sweets because you don’t see them screaming in delight whenever they taste sweets that are out of this world. Yes, each one of them are mature and veterans in their area so it wouldn’t be just funny to see old buggers getting all excited in an exaggerated way, it would be plain weird. Thus you can see the images and the scenery they are being transported to when they take a bite. Again, nothing very exaggerative (don’t expect to see volcanoes or the universe exploding) but enough to give you a hint that the confectionery is indeed worthy of the heart, soul and love they put into when making in. Then again, how do you really describe such nostalgic happiness? I really need to have a taste…

Besides the values we learn such as friendship and perseverance, we also learn the importance not only in the sweets itself. For instance, we also learn how to appreciate the basic ingredients that they come from such as flour, sugar and eggs. If the basics aren’t good, then you can bet the end product will also be bad. Other educational insights such as sugar shouldn’t merely be seen as a sweet substance that contributes to obesity and diabetes. It is an important substance in holding out the structure of certain sweets and the same types of sugar can turn the sweets into a different type depending of the amount and heat applied. Very enlightening for me. But too bad I had forgotten most of them. DAMN IT! NOOOOO! Another thing I noticed is the wastage of the ingredients when the gang used to make sweets during their practice. It is a good sign that we see them producing trays after trays of sweets but come to think of it, the amount that they churn out (especially Ichigo) seems like too much for her to finish and thus wasted, right? I’m also a little puzzled since these ingredients aren’t that dirt cheap and the St Marie Academy seems to be able to provide unlimited supplies of them. Of course the idea that they are a patissiere school should make this argument invalid but like I said, it just seems endless.

For the cast of this series, I am surprised that some of them are young and below 20 years old. For example, Mayu Iino was only 10 years old when she took on the role as the voice of Caramel. No wonder she sounds so cute! She sounds real different from grownup ladies trying to make squeaky high pitch girl voices. So when Caramel is in a pinch or go shouting “Aaaaaaa~”, she does sound different and in a way, cute. Aoi Yuuki as Ichigo (Mina in Dance In The Vampire Bund, Murasaki in Kurenai, Budoko in Akikan) really fits her character on all occasions, whether she is being dreamy, klutzy or serious. She is only 17 when this series is made. Other young casts include Sachika Misawa as Cafe, Yuri Yamaoka as Chocolat and Yui Ogura as Mint and Ringo. At first I couldn’t place my finger on Vanilla’s voice as she sounded so familiar. When I found out she was Ayana Taketatsu, it occurred to me whenever Vanilla tries to motivate and get Ichigo going and not slack off, she reminded me so much of her other role as K-ON!’s Azusa trying to do the same to Yui! Other casts include Nobuhiko Okamoto as Kashino (Usui in Kaichou Wa Maid-sama), Shinya Hamazoe as Andou, Tsubasa Yonaga as Hanabusa (Jun in Special A), Daisuke Kishio as Henri (Suginami in Da Capo series), Sayuri Yahagi as Miya (Haruna in To Love-Ru), Eri Kitamura as Mari and Honey (Yui in Angel Beats), Mariya Ise as Lemon (Stocking in Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt), Tomokazu Sugita as Rick (Gintoki in Gintama), Marina Inoue as Francois (Chiri in Zetsubou Sayonara Sensei series) and Kikuko Inoue as the Queen (Belldandy in Aa! Megami-sama).

The first season’s opening theme by Mayumi Gojo, Yume Ni Yell! Patissiere sounds like a lively anime pop piece and with the lyrics filled with lots of tasty pastries, it definitely gets you into the mood of the series. “Strawberry fraisier and framboise, happy happy macaron, happiness made go!”. Oh yeah. Got to love that even if sometimes I get goosebumps hearing this groupie part. Ichigo No Miracle by Yukina Sugihara is the first season’s ending theme sounds like a slow-moderate anime pop. It’s funny to see the Sweets Spirits doing some kind of dance. However come the second season, the opening theme feels more like a techno R&B dance beat! Sweet Romance by Mayumi Gojo makes it sound as though it is for a series that is dramatic and romance (even the opening animation suggests so with some mature visuals like lipstick, Sweets Spirits in black cat suits and such). So much so you’d wonder if you’re watching a pastry-themed anime in the first place! But the dance beat is catchy enough to make me get up on my feet and impersonate (albeit very lame) dance moves of my own. The second season’s ending theme by Primavera is Home Made Happy and though it is slower, feels suitable like another dance song. This one didn’t make me get up and do a full gig but enough to make me shuffle my feet. The animation of the ending credits shows the Sweets Spirits each cycling. What does this imply? After eating too many sweets, they need the workout to burn those calories?! Haha! As for the background music, I’m not saying that they are similar but it somehow reminds me of the other bread-themed anime series: Yakitate! Japan. From the ‘battle’ themes to the jazzy casuals they are nicely fitted for the atmosphere and scenes. Perhaps it’s the overall feel that reminded me of such since both series’ story flow (the competition, ‘power up’ training and ‘fillers’ sense) are pretty much alike.

Though this series may not be one of top favourites but in my opinion it is one of those better animes for the family (also read: no fanservice). In addition to the drama, romance and comedy, viewers get knowledgeable insights in the world of sweets. Speaking of which, no matter what kind of sweets and from wherever in this world they are from, it is important and essential that sweets make people feel relaxed and happy. Just like how it did to me. I may not be able to tell apart or identify many sweets or chocolates but each time I pop them in my mouth, I know that I am experiencing a little part of happiness. I know the prices of chocolates aren’t cheap these days and with a limited budget, it really puts a damper. Maybe, I should really start trying to bake those sweets myself. But then again, maybe not. Why? Because like I said, I only know how to eat.

Well, they did it again. It must be popular enough that they produced a third instalment of the Hinako training series. This time called Isshoni Training 026: Bathtime With Hinako & Hiyoko. If you’re wondering what the triple digit number in the title means, it is actually pronounced as ‘ofuro’, which is a pun for ‘bath’ in Japanese. I mean, after exercising and sleeping with the busty titular character, what else is there left to do for otaku people? Yeah, clean yourself real good. What better way than to do it via a 2D girl.

Just like in previous instalments, Hinako ‘interacts’ with the viewers like as though she’s breaking the fourth wall as we ‘see’ her as the eyes of the cameras. The entire setting is in the bathroom where by Hinako is soaking in her bath tub. It would be dead boring just to see somebody bathing for the entire 25 minutes, right? Okay, maybe some people (read: voyeurism) do get their kicks by watching others bath in secret for hours and hours but in order to ‘retain’ viewers’ attention and seeing Hinako lying and soaking doing nothing, the first half of this episode has her telling viewers to do simple stretch-ups in the bathtub. Doesn’t it feel a little cramp? Hey, you don’t need a big space to do simple exercises.

Once that is done, as you may have guessed from the title, Hinako’s friend-cum-captain, Hiyoko makes her entrance to join Hinako. I guess this is to satisfy those who have fetish for under-developed bodies (read: lolicon). So yeah, the more the merrier, right? Right. So the first thing Hinako did when she enters the bath is to squeeze Hinako’s certain parts she deemed ‘fat’. When Hinako realizes viewers have seen every part of her, she wants us to marry her. If not, she’ll destroy us with her hand energy projection. Holy sh*t! Is she some sort of Super Saiyan?! Hinako makes an excuse that the steam from the bath hinders us from seeing anything so Hiyoko backs down.

The rest of the episode sees the duo scrubbing each other’s body and hair and Hiyoko ultimately giving Hinako a ‘special massage’. Something tells me that Hiyoko is jealous and is pinching real hard everywhere, including Hinako’s cheeks. Sadist… Then they go back and soak inside the tub and we have another round of finger stretching exercise for improving grasping ability due to the effects of water pressure. Hinako actually counted to 100 while Hiyoko leaves the tub halfway. With that, bath time with Hinako is over! Man, I thought she’d never get out.

Bathtime Never Felt So Sexy…
Well, what more can I say. I guess I expected something like this so I’m not so surprised anymore and because of that, I felt it wasn’t anything much. It had me thinking if you’re supposed to watch and do the exercises in the bathtub, wouldn’t it be dangerous too seeing that water and electrical items do not mix? Unless you’re watching it from your iPad but even so, would you risk it getting wet? Hiyoko just provides a little company because I think after the first two episodes, we might have got bored from Hinako’s monologue and think she is some sort of maniac who talks to herself even if it’s meant for us. So it’s just to liven up the atmosphere a little.

Besides, with Hinako having more dialogue here (instead of the usual counting in the first episode and non-action in the second), I thought there was a chance that she may explain some tips, trivia, dos and don’ts in bathing. Or maybe even her own personally preferred shampoo or soap. Apparently not because I guess you’re supposed to just gawk at them. I’m not sure if they’ll come up with more of this sort of ‘training’ videos but even so, what will they come up next? For the ‘benefit’ of the otaku, of course. Maybe it’ll be a diet and healthy eating. Or how to watch anime and read manga at a safe distance? For now, I think I’ll go take a quick shower seeing that I’ve been staring too long at the monitor and I think smell too. It’ll be a fast one because if I take too long, my dad is going to suspect that I’m laying eggs inside or counting hair instead.