Aoharu x Kikanjuu

January 22, 2016

Hey, wait a minute. So soon? Another survival game themed anime? Really? Do we really need another one despite this is just the third in these few years? I suppose that survival game anime genres are so rare that you tend to notice them unlike their mecha or ecchi genre counterparts. So if you have had it with the boring drama of those high school girls in Stella Jogakuin Koutouka C3-Bu or not too amused with the moe slapstick comedy of Sabagebu, because girls taking up this sport are just as annoying as f*ck (oops!), then maybe we could have some ‘manly’ survival game anime in the form of Aoharu x Kikanjuu. Well, not exactly manly but if you find bishoujo and moe to not fit the survival game theme, how about hot bishonen then? Long story short about this anime, a girl who looks like a guy (and is always mistaken to be one) gets dragged into the world of survival game and gets hooked on it. Add lots of bishonen drama to that…

Episode 1
Hotaru Tachibana defeats a group of bullies as he believes it is all part of the day of putting evildoers at bay. Thanks to his boyish looks and dressing, nobody would have guessed Hotaru is actually a girl! Till her best friend, Kanae Yajima bugs her about wearing a bra and skirt! Heading back to her dorm, she sees a blonde guy, Masamune Matsuoka standing outside her door. She thinks she misheard his conversation about boobs and throws a warning punch (too bad for his door). Masamune is his next door neighbour and seems interested in her. Is he gay? Hotaru’s instinct to stay away from him is probably true because Masamune dropped his gun! Next day when Kanae wants to borrow some money from food, Hotaru misinterprets her story that she got conned by Masamune. So he barges into the host club where this blondie works and almost got kicked out if not for Masamune identifying him. Hotaru throws a powerful air punch as warning and the next time he cheats Kanae, the punch will connect. Fine. Masamune whips out his gun! They’re going to settle it right here. Since Hotaru is being a blabber mouth, he shoots her! Why is Hotaru still alive? It’s just a toy gun! Psyche! Masamune is part of a survival game club. He throws down the challenge to Hotaru. He will apologize if she wins otherwise, Hotaru will become his plaything. The rules are simple. Whoever gets shot first loses. As Masamune is a veteran, he will give Hotaru a handicap. Hotaru will have many bullets as opposed to his single pellet. The battleground will be this hall.

When it begins, Hotaru wastes no time in pumping all the bullets at him. Of course being the inexperienced one, Masamune can dodge all of them like as though he activated Bullet Time mode. More accurately, he has the ability called Kinetic Vision which allows him to see the slightest change in movement and this is honed thanks to his host skills. Hotaru realizes he is no match for him but decides to play a chicken game where he pretends to charge at him to make him shoot. After all, if Masamune fires his only bullet and misses, Hotaru wins. Masamune could see this coming from a mile and then gets ready when she turns. However Hotaru surprises him with a double feign. She could switch directions fast enough. Hotaru mocks him for taking a kid’s game seriously but as he pulls the trigger, he is out of bullets! Masamune claims he has counted all his shots. Otherwise he would have never let him get close to him. Game over. Bang. And oh, he takes his game seriously because he is an adult. Hotaru realizes his mistake when he finds out Kanae came here on her own volition and spent all her money in trying to seduce him. Hotaru dreads become Masamune’s plaything but surprisingly he wants her to join his survival game team. The other girls want to join his team but he asserts only men are allowed! Now this makes it awkward for Hotaru to disclose her gender. He throws in a deal. Because Hotaru carelessly wrecked the place, for every survival game she wins, he will reduce the damage repairs she needs to cover. Of course, our hero of justice must keep true to his promise, right? Hotaru can’t help seethe in anger of the evildoer he is.

Episode 2
In the wee hours of the morning, Masamune wakes up Hotaru from her sleep to bring her to a real survival game field. You think it’s going to be held at the host club, don’t you? Hotaru changes and believes she needs to continue acting like a man till her debts are cleared. But she already made the first mistake of coming out from a woman’s toilet and this creepy pervert, Tooru Yukimura spotted him! At first he doesn’t mind because he too does the same thing from time to time. He enters woman’s toilet to fantasize?! But when he sees her armband, he changes his attitude and calls her a pervert and get out. A pervert calling her a pervert? Hotaru sinks into depression but no time for that since Masamune drags her into the tournament that has just started. It already ended when they get in as their partner took out the enemy and every shot of his counted. Who is he? Yukimura! When Masamune introduces Hotaru to him, he isn’t pleased because he doesn’t need another friend. When they regroup before the next round starts, Yukimura details their strategy for the capture the flag match. Based on Hotaru’s attacking skill, she should be up there charging to take down the enemy’s flag while he provides cover. Hotaru’s sense of justice is heightened when the next team they face are despicable cheats. They bully weaker teams and break the fundamental rule of not announcing whenever they get hit.

As the match starts, Hotaru is swiftly surrounded by the rival team. Masamune is shocked that Yukimura is not with Hotaru covering him and all this plan was just a ploy that let that kid hate and quit the game. Then there’s some tragic past Yukimura speaks off about being bullied and Masamune was the only one who stood up for him. That’s why he only needs him as his friend. Nobody else. When Yukimura returns to the field, he is surprised that Hotaru is still standing her ground. Even more shocking that she believes Yukimura will never betray her. When Yukimura comes clean with her, this is all the more reason why she won’t quit because he’ll do the same to the next guy. Even he Yukimura’s claim for her sense of justice was a lie, it made her happy. She is willing to go this far because she wants them to be friends. Their chatter took too long and are about to be shot. Masamune covers for them. Hotaru rushes towards the enemy’s flag but of course they cheat by remaining in the game despite clearly being hit. Hotaru is so fast approaching this cheater that it scares the sh*t out of him when she threatens one shot is never enough to kill him! With that, the game is won. As apology and to make up, Yukimura gives Hotaru his serialized manga. She is devastated to learn he is an ero S&M manga artist! She throws away the manga that guys would have kept and treasured it like gold! Although they lost in the next round, to add to Hotaru’s woes, Masamune says her debt has not reduced a cent because they’re supposed to win this game and he becomes the best survival gamer in the country! Too high a goal? Hotaru’s concern for now is the team’s lame name: Toy Gun Gun (TGG).

Episode 3
At first I thought it was just a dream. But it’s real! Because Hotaru has paid off the debt! To her surprise, Yukimura is waiting at the front of his school gate and trying to hand her a copy of the ero manga! Yukimura then wonders if Hotaru would like to continue playing survival games. He was shocked when he heard her debt was cleared. After all, she said she wanted to quit all the while. She looked more animated while playing survival games. Is she sure she is not hooked on it? Hotaru ponders about this on her way home. She admits that she did feel the thrill that she has never experienced before. She finds a letter in her post box intended for someone else. To her surprise, Yukimura lives in the same dorm. Trying to return the letter, his door is unlocked and under pretence to put away the gun strewn on his floor, she starts having survival game fantasies. Then Yukimura catches her in the act. Masamune thinks she is still hooked on the game and hopes they can play together again. When she shows the black letter, Masamune cannot stop grinning because the chance to become Japan’s best is within reach. That night, Hotaru cannot stand hearing from next door about Masamune trying to flirt with his woman. Turns out his ‘woman’ is his Desert Eagle. He suggests Hotaru go buy her own gun to call her own. As minors cannot purchase a gun, he has Yukimura accompany her. Besides, Hotaru has worked her share enough for Masamune to pay her.

Along the way, Yukimura explains the black letter which is an invitation from a certain person to participate in a team survival game. In addition to the million yen prize, there are other rare items that winners can get. This means only the best are invited to participate and winning this means you are the best in Japan as there will be tough and skilled opponents participating. Hotaru thought for a moment that it is the money that Masamune is aiming for. Because there is a sale of some eroge today, Yukimura is in dilemma to wait in line and accompany Hotaru. She gives him permission to buy the game and meet up later at the gun store. Taking her first step in is already intimidating because the MGS-like store owner really looks intimidating. But this polite and nice customer, Nagamasa Midori helps her out and even assists in trying to find the right gun for her playing style. Hotaru backs off when Midori seems to do a little body search on her. He was just trying to check her muscle and body frame. When Hotaru has selected the set she wants to buy, the total amount is f*cking expensive! Definitely not just children’s toy. The cash Masamune gave her is just paltry. Not enough to cover 10% of it. Is Hotaru in trouble? The store owner thinks she is fooling around. Then she remembers Yukimura’s words to get out of trouble if she finds herself in one. Saying “going up”, the store owner realizes this is what Masamune intended and takes Hotaru upstairs to test the gun to see if she is suitable for her. After she goes upstairs, Yukimura arrives, happily bought the limited first edition and even a copy for Hotaru! The moment he sees Midori, he becomes violent and tries to punch him but was quickly pinned down.

Episode 4
Hotaru clearly sucks at target practice so the owner thinks he isn’t suitable for this gun or the game. She pleads for another chance so he takes her to a mini maze room. They’re going to play something like tag. She has to shoot him within 5 minutes or else she loses. That or she runs out of ammo. Win and the gun will be hers. He is surprised that she wants him to play the game with a gun too instead of being unarmed. Meanwhile downstairs, Yukimura and Midori have some showdown. The former blaming the latter why their team lost members. He reminds him that this prestigious tournament known as Top Gun Combat (TGC), the prize money is not what Masamune is looking for but to kick all of their asses. The owner thought Hotaru would be easy picking and won’t last. Surprised! He is made to run around. Despite her terrible accuracy, he is being sought out. Furthermore, he could feel her bloodlust as though they’re on a real battlefield. Hotaru learns fast that her G3 submachine gun means she’ll run out of ammo faster and this is what the owner is baiting her to do. When they realize they are back to back with each other and only a wall separating them, the owner thinks he is going to win as time is running out and there won’t be time for her to dash for him. He is caught dead surprised when she jumps over! You’re dead meat! In his instinct, he fires a shot and it hits her hand. She drops the gun and is worried she damaged the merchandise. Hotaru thanks him for the game. She never had so much fun before.

Thanks to that too, Hotaru gets the entire set all for just a thousand yen. As Yukimura puts it, it was all part of Masamune’s plan to let her get her gun that way. Yukimura is shocked to hear Hotaru saying that Midori was the one who recommended this gun for her. It makes him think he knows everything and that he is confident he can win regardless of what gun she uses. TGG is here at another survival game. Masamune meets Hanako Sagara, a female player who will be commanding the rival team. Hotaru’s enthusiasm peaks. She can’t contain her excitement to play the game. But barely a minute into it, she gets shot! This happens not once but all the time! So much so Masamune calls out to her to remind her that they’re here to improve her skills 2 weeks before TGC. Masamune ticks her off on relying too much on instincts and enthusiasm and she shouldn’t be that just because she is a little bit athletic. When he wants her to follow his orders, she snaps back that this is not the teamwork that he has been preaching. At this rate he is only being a dictator. This prompts him to remember an ugly incident with Midori. She realizes a little too late of her outburst because Masamune then pushes Hotaru to Sagara’s team for the next match. Oh dear. Did she make him mad? Has she been kicked out of TGG?

Episode 5
Since Hotaru is still reeling from the shock, Sagara talks to her and finds out what happened. Then they witness how Masamune helped a newbie and made her happy with her first kill. Maybe he just wanted her number? Sagara explains the natural leader Masamune is thanks to his host job and has the eye to observe and respond to customers the right way. He also doesn’t need to worry about his back because he has got it covered by Yukimura the master sniper. She also adds she eavesdropped on the aftermath of their quarrel. Yukimura wanted Masamune to forget about Hotaru as it is hard to control her. However all he wanted was just to bring out her potential. This made Hotaru they were doing this for her sake and that she was being selfish. So after the game she goes to beg for forgiveness on his knees! She pleads to remain their teammate. Thankfully he is not the guy who holds grudges. Despite all he has said, he still thinks she is pretty good. Later when Hotaru goes to thank Sagara, the latter wishes her luck and laments her own condition why she couldn’t join TGG. It doesn’t allow girls to join. Don’t tell me you forgot that, didn’t you? That was enough to make Hotaru feel gloomy. Even more so when she was told TGG did have a female member until something happened. I guess revealing her gender now is not a good idea.

Till TGC, Masamune has created a makeshift obstacle course behind their dorm to practice. To avoid complaints from neighbours about being noisy, they’ll use water guns. As the rules will be the same as any survival games, Masamune adds a new one: Physical contact is allowed. Normally touching an opponent is banned but in TGC, hand to hand combat and knife attacks are allowed with both team’s consent. Although you still need to get shot to be out. Masamune gives them a handicap as Yukimura and Hotaru will team up to take him on. Yukimura senses Hotaru’s gloominess and wants to know what happened. Without going into too much detail, she mentions about what Sagara said about the female member. Yukimura confirms there was one during TGG’s inception. She was quite a good player but it was the cruel way she was tormented and ‘killed’. Even right before Masamune’s eyes. She left the team right after and although she could have blamed him, she said nothing. That only hurt Masamune deeply inside. The guy who did this will be at TGC. Hotaru realizes Masamune’s rule of not wanting girls to be put in danger. But now the thought of tricking him, does she deserve to stay on the team? Her own personal sense of justice would not have allowed it. Save the thinking for later because Masamune has found you.

Episode 6
Hotaru connects the dots why Masamune wants to participate in TGC. Is it to avenge that girl? This serves as her motivation because if they win the tournament, Hotaru can reveal she is a girl. Instantly she turns into a demon and turns on the heat on Masamune! He never saw it coming and lost. Yukimura has been observing Hotaru’s inconsistent combat skills. He deduces she fights better if she is fighting for a great purpose. However he doesn’t think Masamune will be motivated by that sort of justice. Hotaru is so excited that she spent the night practising her skills and the next day she still has enough energy to be eager beaver for the start of TGC. All that confidence is blown away when she feels all the bloodlust aura from other competitors. Yeah, it feels like a gathering of top killers! Masamune and Yukimura go register and purposely left her with the crowd so she could get used to it. Thankfully Midori is here to ease her worries. TGC organizer, Souji Kamenashi makes his announcement of the tournament. In addition to winning the cash prize and the title, they get to use this field free for 6 months. Midori continues to be Hotaru’s ‘saviour’ as he explains the rules. Mostly it is standard but there are a few exceptions. Those includes both sides must have equal members (any excess must sit out), calling a freeze as a hit is disallowed and the use of close quarter combat.

When Hotaru’s teammates return, the moment Masamune recognizes Midori, his face turns pale. If that is not bad enough, he becomes so nervous and can’t maintain eye contact that Midori is just dominating over this guy. It’s just so unbecoming. He’s asking stuff like how he’s been since he was absent from TGC last year but Masamune remains ‘paralyzed’. Yukimura steps in to warn this guy or else he’ll really kill him. When Midori’s teammates, Takatora Fujimori and Ichi Akabane arrive, Hotaru who has been in shock, starts connecting the dots that Midori is the guy Masamune wants revenge. She couldn’t believe a nice guy like him is the culprit but Yukimura tells her off which side she is on. The shock only serves to make her even gloomier but soon after Yukimura apologizes, Hotaru puts that behind her and vows to help her team win TGC. After all, they’re just another opponent they must defeat. Surprisingly, Yukimura pleads to her to save Masamune. When the teams draw lots for the tournament bracket, guess who TGG got for the first round? Hoshishiro. That’s Midori’s team. Yeah, everybody can’t believe it they’ll be facing off in the first round. Oh, did I mention that they are 4 times champion? They’re even dressed to kill. Looking sharp, guys.

Episode 7
Their location will be in a forested field. Midori doesn’t have a plan to seek out TGG. As they have been missing for a year and planning their revenge, what better way to crush that hope of theirs. Suddenly Hotaru zooms past them. Yeah, everyone just looked surprised. Did she go too far? Midori doesn’t want to underestimate her speed because as TGG started out from the furthest point, reaching to their point in just 48 seconds is incredible. Fujimori offers to go after the kid. If not for Ichi’s sharp observation, Yukimura’s shot could have taken out Midori. Jealous girl is mad because this means Yukimura saw Midori through his lens. Nobody sees Midori close up except for her! So both snipers start hunting each other. Ichi uses a trap by placing her gun at the top of a mini hill as deception. This will allow her to go around Yukimura’s back and shoot him since he will be focused in finding the target. However she also falls into his trap. A point blank Yukimura could not miss but Ichi is swift to kick his gun away. He retreats when she starts firing. As he contemplates his next move, he realizes his options are limited. Whatever way he chooses, he cannot move from this spot or risk being shot. Then he realized she might be gunning for Masamune. Speaking of which, that guy faces off with Midori who thinks this is his plan to divide the team’s strength. Even so, this weakness will also apply to his team.

Hotaru cannot understand why Fujimori is walking around in the open and not hiding. Till she accidentally steps on a twig and gives herself away. Fujimori fires his devastating minigun! It took down a few trees! Hotaru remembers Masamune’s plan for her to take on him one on one. Now she understands that with such devastating power, he doesn’t need to hide as he will take out his enemies before they even have a chance to shoot. She thought of running away and putting some distance but to her surprise this guy can run despite carrying that heavy thing! When she is cornered at the edge of the field, he gives her a chance to pretend to be shot and forfeit. Because it will be traumatizing for a newbie to face time first time. Hotaru won’t be tricked but when Fujimori tells him that his teammates may the ones lying to him about that brutality, she starts getting that dilemma feeling again. No use thinking too much since she knows the truth that at least they’re relying on her. They decide to fight it out fair and square. Hotaru speeds up and takes him by surprise with her sudden acceleration. She steps on his minigun to immobilize its barrel on the ground. If he fires, the shots will ricochet and hit him. Hotaru does an amazing back flip to his back. Fujimori has no chance of surviving this one but why didn’t Hotaru shoot? Seems she got the safety lock on! You got to be kidding! Because of that, she wants him to kill her! However Fujimori admits he has lost when she accelerated and he hesitated to pull the trigger. He is more concerned that she stepped on his minigun. Fujimori heads out to the safety zone while Hotaru goes to find Masamune.

Episode 8
Midori is being a cool cat and even has time waltzing through the forest having his nature watch and still Masamune cannot hit him! I guess his mind must be pretty preoccupied with their times together and that bad breakup. When Midori pins him down, he uses Masamune’s Desert Eagle and fires point blank in his stomach. Because he is covering his mouth and not enabling him to call a hit, he fires multiple times till there is no ammo left! More cocky words from him while Masamune is so dead that he can’t even cry. Furious Yukimura tries to get him but Midori is still cool enough to dodge all his attacks. Not even close up attacks can rile up this guy and it backfires on him. When Midori uses his gun and shoots him, Yukimura didn’t call a hit and continues to charge at him. This cheat gives a reason for the sadist to beat him down. Now he’s dead too. A dead with regrets because he couldn’t help Masamune. I guess now it’s Hotaru’s turn. After witnessing the horrifying events firsthand, she is shocked at Midori’s true colours. She remembers Masamune’s plan to take them on individually. Although she was against it but decided to put her faith in him. Hotaru ignores Midori to tend to Masamune. Midori shows no remorse in what he did especially kicking Masamune for trying to tell Hotaru to forfeit. Corpses don’t speak, right? After all, it is just a game where hurting opponents and crushing their spirits can be written off as just a game.

This makes Hotaru mad. So mad that all the birds fly away, the storm is coming and the air around trembling! Hotaru transforms into a speed demon and is going to evoke justice on this monster. Despite how fast Hotaru comes at him and dodging his bullets, Midori can still keep his cool and analyze his behaviour and tactic to use mobility to beat him in close quarters. When Hotaru corners Midori and is about to show no mercy, Midori says something that has her stunned. He knows she cannot win this game because she is a liar and a girl. This gives Ichi time to snipe her out. Game over. Still reeling from the shock, Midori explains about that frisking at the shop that made him knew. He figures his teammates don’t know about this and that she lied to join the team. Hotaru insists she can continue but he points out she is already dead. Of course technically she would be if that was a real bullet. But since she is not, she is still alive and what she feels are despair and remorse. Something that she wouldn’t have if she was dead. Thus survival games make you experience the despair of death while living. Now that she’s got a taste of what her friends felt all those years, she’s a step closer to them. He invites her to take part again next year and he’ll gladly take her on. When Hotaru returns to Masamune, she cannot help feel disgrace as she has let him down but Masamune is quick to apologize it was his fault for coming up with this plan. And now that this match and fun are over, we don’t need to see anymore of the rest and we’ll just skip to the end results. Yup, Hoshishiro wins the championship for the fifth time.

Episode 9
Hotaru is still having nightmares from Midori’s torment. Even right in the middle of class. Kanae notices something amiss goes to talk to her and she explains about the survival game thingy and yesterday’s ultimate loss. Of course there are things she cannot tell Kanae like she lied to her friends about her gender. However Hotaru decides to quit survival game for good. This makes Kanae look up on survival games and her lazy browsing has her not having a good opinion of the sport. So a good thing that she’s quitting? But this has her remember a time their class was facing off another class in PE in volleyball. The opponent had giant monster girls. The class wants to give up as they always lose but Hotaru told them some motivating words that made them carry on. So she goes up to Hotaru and wants to challenge her to a 100 metre race. You think a twist is going to happen? Well, Hotaru wins and Kanae is slower than a turtle! But each time she requests to race again. Always the same results. Hotaru crosses the finish line when she isn’t even halfway and always trips. So what the heck is the point of all this? Doesn’t she look cool? Well, can’t say for her running makeup… As she mentions about giving up and not trying makes you even uncool, those were the exact words Hotaru said to her classmates. Remember them? Although Kanae doesn’t like her playing survival games, seeing her this pessimistic is even worse. This isn’t like her at all. For her to be depressed means she really loves the game and that her friends she plays with are important to her. So go out there and win it the next time. Hotaru’s depression vanishes. She thanks her and as she puts her palms over Kanae’s cheeks, saying how cool and cute she is, Kanae becomes embarrassed and sprints away. A sprint so fast that she could have broke the world record if this was actually officially recorded! Hotaru realizes she needs to become stronger but the first thing she needs to do is to come clean about her gender to her friends. It is another day at work for Masamune at his host club. His colleagues heard about his lost but are glad his face isn’t ‘damaged’. But Masamune notes Midori leaves scars where it cannot be seen…

Episode 10
Of course it isn’t as easy as it seems. Numerous chances for Hotaru to tell the truth but she just can’t. Chicken. Masamune invites her to join a grill party in Yukimura’s room. Since the place is strewn with questionable stuffs, Hotaru throws it all away! Her nervousness continues to impede her from telling the truth even when the chance presents itself. It makes her gloominess so obvious. Masamune then asks her if she likes survival games. Long story short, yes. That is precisely the reason why Masamune is going to tell her she is out of the team! Wait. Did we hear that right?! He kicks her out of the room and says they were just finding a third member to beat Midori but apparently that wasn’t enough either. Yukimura has a thing to say to Masamune too. He knows Masamune felt hurt when he kicked her out so why did he do it? At first it was true they just wanted an extra member but she came to love survival games. He understands he did this so as not to drag Hotaru into their personal battle but one day he’ll realize this would be very unfair to her. Yukimura then punches him because he is not to only one who is hurt by this. As he has always followed him without question, if this is what he wants, he will follow him no more. Yeah, everybody is left in shock. Yukimura is recovering from this outburst. He never knew he could do it. He thought this would make Hotaru mad enough to come barging back but she didn’t. Is she going to end it like this? To make things worse, didn’t Yukimura just run out of his own room? Where is he going to sleep? For Hotaru, there is only one thing to do. She goes to the hospital where Midori works and takes out her gun! They’re going to settle it today! He tells her not to bring survival games into her daily life. That is what the sport is for. You do all your fighting there. After his shift finishes, Hotaru is taken to a maid cafe. Not just an ordinary maid cafe as she notices the maids carry guns and there are guns all around. Is this the place where they’ll settle it? Hotaru forgot she didn’t eat anything since morning. Can’t fight on an empty stomach, eh? She tells how she was kicked out of TGG. And because she needs to become stronger, the reason why she’ll be having his head! But Midori accepts her challenge. Because if she thinks beating him will solve the problem, then go ahead. They’ll play a game in the next room.

Episode 11
There is a shooting gallery in this maid cafe where they can rent guns and practise shooting. During the warm up, Hotaru sucks! Midori wonders if Hotaru will rejoin TGG if she beats him. He suspects she didn’t get kick out for being weak. Hotaru also suspected Masamune was lying when he told her that. Midori assures he did not tell them about her gender and that guy is a bigger coward than she thinks. The match they’ll play is to shoot a target’s body part in a systematic order. The last one will be the head and whoever nails that shot wins. Hotaru couldn’t get even a shot anywhere and Midori is your usual cool cat since he is playing mind games with Hotaru that TGG might not like her. Midori even has the idea of asking TGG to join his side as he wants to expand his team. That way, he could torment Masamune all he wants… In that instant, Hotaru lands a direct headshot on the target. She won’t let him have his way with anyone else. Next time they meet will be on the battlefield. Hotaru then goes to Yukimura’s room to talk. Ero manga artist shows all his treasured photos containing Masamune! This just confirms his unhealthy stalker status. But there are also a few photos of ex-TGG members. Yukimura has decided to tell him the real truth. The real reason why they don’t allow female members to join. So we’ve heard the cruelty that was done to her. That was somewhat a lie. He reveals Masamune has some sort of obsession with Midori. If he doesn’t beat him, TGG cannot advance. This selfish obsession produced 2 casualties. The first third member was that female. In the first TGC, it was actually TGG that broke the rules. After Masamune was hit, he saw his female teammate being hunt down by Midori. Against the rules, he tried to help her but was pinned down by Fujimori. She was scared and all but Midori showed no mercy. Midori even mocked Masamune for being a bad and weak leader since he invited one of his host clients to join his team. If you look at it, Hoshishiro didn’t break any rules and played accordingly unlike TGG.

Shortly after the female member left, the no-female rule was initiated because Masamune didn’t want to see he was too pathetic to protect them. As we know that Hoshishiro is now 5 times champion, as both Hoshishiro and TGG were created at the same time, from what we know so far, the female member participated in the first TGC, absent in the fourth and Hotaru in the fifth. This means there is another member who participated with them in the second and third. TGG got another guy for that. He was well knowledgeable in the game. But those 2 tournaments shattered his innocence of the game. Because of that, he quit survival games for good and blamed it on Masamune for that. This is probably the same reason why Hotaru got kicked out. Therefore the third member of TGG is always like a curse. Members get caught up in Masamune and Midori’s relationship and having to suffer about it. Yukimura didn’t quit because he has decided to stay with him all the way. He apologizes for dramatizing the story to hype her up and end this negative cycle. Looks like it didn’t. That is why he is begging her to rejoin and save Masamune. He can’t do it alone. Hotaru doesn’t need this sympathetic story for it. For she has also decided to save him. They’re just in luck because that guy just came back from work. Hotaru corners him with her devil attitude and throws him a challenge letter. They’re going to do something fun together… That ambiguity… Masamune must be too scared to decline.

Episode 12
They’re here at a survival game field where they’ll settle it. If Hotaru wins, there is something she wants him to say. He has no right to decline since he dragged her into this world and needs to take responsibility. He agrees to participate but if he wins, she will never be associated with TGG again. Yukimura will sit this one out and watch them as a spectator. Right off the bat, Hotaru goes into her demon mode to hunt down Masamune. While he is paranoid about why Hotaru issued such challenge, it comes to a disappointing end when Masamune shot her. However Hotaru requests for a rematch. Masamune has no choice but to keep playing till she is satisfied. After all, he is thinking of quitting participating in TGC as he is tired of losing. Ever rematch always has Masamune winning and Hotaru requesting another rematch. Doesn’t she get tired especially of losing? This makes Masamune ponder when did he become afraid of challenging him and when did he stop feeling the frustration of losing. Maybe the losing streak has numbed those senses. In the final game, Masamune reminds her that here are some people she just can’t beat even if they play 100 times. Even so, if this means she will beat him on the 101st time, she’ll do it. Why is she so determined to win? Simple. She wants to win. She wants to beat Hoshishiro with TGG. This makes Masamune think further why Hotaru won’t abandon him after all the hurtful things he has said. Why is she still playing with him? Hotaru notices his pain ever since their lost at TGC. Does she need any other reason to save a friend who is in hurt? She understands TGG’s goal is to win and naturally useless teammates will be kicked out. However, learning from the ‘enemy’ that when someone else could have taken this place and help them beat Hoshishiro, that possibility makes her sick because she wants to be the one who will help TGG achieve victory and save her friends! She wants to be the only one to play survival games with them!

In the final showdown, more deep thoughts from Masamune about watching people in his life leave (I figure that first person who started it all was his mom in this flashback) and all he could do was watch them disappear into the distance. His eyes are clouded by his tears and Hotaru did a surprising move by hugging him. Deep late into the night, finally Hotaru wins. What is it that she wants him to say? Remember the first thing he said to her when she lost their first match at the host club? Yeah. That. Masamune invites her to join his team and she gladly doesn’t hesitate. Hotaru wants Masamune to also thank Yukimura but that ero manga artist is being tsundere, blaming it all on him because he never thought about him despite always by his side. But after he apologizes and mentions his gratefulness, Yukimura forgives him and that says it all when he gives him a gay hug! Oh sh*t! The close proximity of their faces! Masamune now has renewed motivation to fight harder to beat Hoshishiro. This means more training and fixing their mistakes. But there is one thing that continues to bug Masamune. He can’t help feel his heart skip each time being near Hotaru. OMG… Don’t tell me… Shotacon!!! Say it isn’t so! Next morning, the trio meet outside their dorm. Hotaru feels she has the confidence to tell them about her gender. Don’t hold your breath because she’s just trolling us and wishing them good morning.

OVA
It has been a week since Hotaru has seen Yukimura. So she enters his room only to find it messy and Yukimura unconscious. All because he was playing too much eroge. So much so Yukimura thought Hotaru is meat and bites his leg! Yukimura then shows her another survival game tournament, TCC. She is eager to join and pleads Masamune to come although he has not heard about this one. At first, Hotaru thought she ended up in the wrong place because there are lots of cosplayers. Then Yukimura reveals that this is Top Cosplayers Combat, a tournament whereby cosplayers compete against realistic survival game players to see who is stronger. They thought they are going to be on the latter side when Yukimura points out it is the former because his close acquaintance invited him to participate. So they have to wear weird costumes and fight? Masamune plans of withdrawing despite this would mean uneven team numbers. However Hotaru sees the fire in the cosplayers’ eyes and believes they too are fired up to play this game. While Yukimura is dressed as a maid (I don’t know how I should feel about this one), Masamune is an office worker in a short skirt! Hotaru? How the heck can he see and move in that panda mascot?! Meanwhile Ichi has also brought Midori and Fujimori here. She is dressed as a princess and by right this is her ploy to get Midori to dress up as her prince. Unfortunately a series of mix-up means Fujimori wears the prince outfit. It’s too tight for him. There goes her dream. Fearing the worse, they need to go find Midori.

The game’s format will be capture the flag. The cosplayers seem to do well maybe because those survival guys look down on those weird outfits. Yukimura has some deep philosophy how cosplaying has the players take out their ultimate stress (which isn’t really related anyhow) while Masamune is reduced to a screaming girl each time his short skirt threatens to reveal his slip. Hotaru? I don’t know how the panda got stuck between the bamboo shoots. But then a horse dude saves her. You would have guessed this is Midori behind the mask. Both ‘animals’ without knowing each other’s identity, cooperate as they make their way forward. I believe everybody else is already out, Hotaru and Midori are the only ones left as they face off with the big boss guarding the flag. Their great cooperation has them win the game. With this victory, those survival guys are left to reconsider that cosplayers aren’t bad too. Hotaru can’t tell her mates what dress she was in and just says she couldn’t make it playing because she was taking too long changing. She wonders who that horse was. Masamune wants to forget this experience but sneaky Yukimura has snapped pictures of him in action. Hold your horses! Delete them right now!

Licence To Thrill
This is an absolute fact and final verdict: Sabagebu is still the best anime survival theme genre there is! No doubts about it. While this anime is not as bad as that Stella girls, I will not go so far as to say that it is boring as hell because there were some pretty interesting moments throughout the series. Although the entire series can be just summed up as this: The first part deals with the drama of Hotaru getting her first virgin taste in the survival game world and the end part tries to unravel and disentangle the messy relationship that TGG has with its third members. At first it started out as just a simple reason for Hotaru to take part in survival games as a reason to reveal her gender. Although it is good that she truly comes to love the game, having her to reveal herself feels like a guy or a girl trying to confess their love. It takes ages. It will never come. That kind of feeling. Get it?

I am not a big fan of yaoi or shonen ai animes. If I would have to rank them, I would rather watch mecha themed animes and skip such genres. But you know me… But I have a feeling that this anime does try to put in subtle yaoi moments and they are peppered throughout the series. Firstly, you can already guess when you have a girl so tomboyish that she acts and dresses like a boy with no sense of guilt. Like as though she is a boy born in a girl’s body. Then you have lots of hot handsome bishonen as the main and supporting characters despite this anime does not have a large pool of casts. Finally when you have that type of combination, it is inevitable that something yaoi will have to prop up (unless it’s a reverse harem genre). You can see in certain angles the way they interact with each other gives off the subtlety of the yaoi-ness. Fujoshi girls might be holding their breath anticipating those hot guys to make out whenever such ambiguous close up scenes occur but I think they’ll rather be disappointed with the no-show. Thank goodness we don’t see guys kissing guys here. Now here is point to ponder. If one of the guys kissed Hotaru, will that be considered yaoi? Holy cow! I think I’m freaking confused just by thinking about it.

Character wise, they are an interesting watch but with only a dozen episodes, my guts tell me that they aren’t fleshed out to their fullest potential. We know each one of them has their own dark secrets and some twisted personality. But we’ve only seen a fragment of it. Nevertheless this little teasing provides a good little insight to their background and the reason they’re around playing this game. If they ever make another season, it will be nice to see a bit expanded on this.

Hotaru as the main character, if you think about it, she is pretty much a funny person. Almost as close to being a joker. You see her making most of the comeback lines in this anime when she screams from the top of her inner voice. Then her personality his equally as amusing. Especially being a newbie in the survival game world, you see her rush into things like as though she is pretty confident that luck is on her side. Well, you can’t blame her for being too enthusiastic since she’s getting all that thrill and adrenaline rush from the game. And then when something doesn’t go her way or reality hits her, you see her in shock. Depression. Gloomy. Welcome to reality, kid. I know this isn’t funny but in a way it does. It’s like seeing how her naivety comes crashing down when it unravels before her eyes.

But you have to admire her guts and tenacity in her belief as the hero of justice. Her athletic ability and that scary demon mode makes others think twice if they think they can score an easy victory over her. But thanks to her recklessness, luck isn’t always on her side. Every time she enters her demon mode, it is like as though he raw inner beast just got unleashed. Sometimes I can’t help think if should would just morph into some human-like beast form. And then when everything calms down, she reverts to normal and can even put off a nice smile since honesty is one of her strong traits. It’s like as though she is this anime’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. One moment normal, the next a vicious merciless hunter and then a nice high school kid as before.

As strange as Hotaru is, one of the strangest and most perplexing behaviour of this cross-dresser is the way she addresses herself. Now, addressing oneself in third person is considered to be child-like in Japanese society. But the oddest thing about that is how Hotaru addresses herself in her own surname! Nothing wrong to it but I have always heard kids doing so usually saying it in their first name. Unless Tachibana is her first name. Nope. Definitely not. I can assure you of that. Another confusing thing to think about is her cross-dressing setting. Of course at first glance she will always be mistaken as a boy from the way she dresses and acts. But what is bugging me is that she dresses as a boy in her school uniform as well. I am not sure if the school condones it or if they are aware of her gender. Because Hotaru is also the student council president and common sense dictates such position means having a role model personality, right? Which brings me to the point if anybody else in school except Kanae knows that Hotaru is actually a girl. That is why in my blog I keep addressing Hotaru as female in hopes not to overwhelm my senses of this yaoi thing although the temptation is very great to see her as male.

I believe Midori is not a bad person as dramatized in the flashbacks as seen. Sure, he is a pure sadist but that is only when he is confined in playing his survival games. Despite his sadistic and mocking nature makes him the series’ antagonist (because the way our blondie agonizes and traumatizes all over about it is just pitiful), he is a pretty nice guy outside the survival game discipline. Because if he was really rotten to the core, he wouldn’t have subtly helped Hotaru each time. He gives good advice with his nice and polite tone (which would work as a double edge sword since we never here this guy scream or yell), a cool and calm collective character in all situations and doesn’t physically hurt others. Okay, so maybe verbal abuses may leave an unseen and permanent scar but at least Midori is not as bad as other psychopaths who use their hobby, turning them into serial killers in real life. In many ways, Midori is superior and that is why despite being the ‘antagonist’, he is quite likeable. Especially when he looks like having fun playing the bad guy role in survival games.

Is it no wonder why so many people like him? Fujimori is into this guy, Ichi definitely has a crush on him and I am starting to believe that Masamune’s unhealthy obsession to beat this dude is because he actually likes the guy! Hey. Remember what I said about this series having subtle yaoi? This means it is the same case for Yukimura and Masamune because from all that we have seen and heard for them, looks like they go beyond just best friends. At least for what Yukimura wants. It makes it ironic that he is an ero manga artist if he is so gay for Masamune. Unless he is bi. Which means it works well for him for Hotaru if ever this guy falls for her. Now with Masamune hinting he has that sort of feelings with Hotaru, can it be considered yaoi or straight love? Confusing, right? Though, not too sure if there is anything going on between Hotaru and Kanae as for the time being they’re more likely staying as best friends.

But I think the true joker and comical character falls to Fujimori. I believe this guy has got the hots for Midori and is a big masochist. There are a few episodes where the drama of TGG is deviated slightly to show the little antics of Midori and Fujimori. For example, Fujimori was reprimanded by a nurse for being late when in actual fact he went over to Midori’s home to wake him up to avoid being late. Even being so nice as to cook breakfast for him. His bicycle might be the biggest time consuming factor that caused them to be late but Midori had prior called a taxi and leaves him eating dust. And Midori didn’t even back him up when they got to work. And Fujimori just loves this cold shoulder play. This guy is funny or what? Then there is another time when a little girl is kicking up a fuss over her shots. Fujimori tried to pacify her but he was so nervous that it made him look like a monster. This distraction allowed Midori to give her a shot that she didn’t even feel any pain. And Fujimori was left painted as the ‘bad guy’. See? Pity this funny guy! Ironically if you think about it, the Hoshishiro team made up of a couple of doctors and a nurse play such games as hobby. Medical personnel are supposed to save lives, right? Releasing some steam? Another case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde?

Although there are a handful of survival game action scenes, such scenes aren’t really the main focus of this series and as I have said it is mainly about the big drama of Hotaru and TGG. Therefore I am in a dilemma to say whether the action scenes are a disappointment or not because although they are entertaining, they aren’t that great. Especially the TGC tournament felt like a disappointment and as a stepping stone to reveal the background story between TGG and Hoshishiro. Because with the most ultimate survival game in Japan, for it to appear in the middle of the series and our main team facing off with the defending champions in the first round, something tells you that the entire tournament itself isn’t going to show. True enough they just spend a couple of episodes on it but even that is heavy on the drama while they fire their guns. Then they skip the rest because it would be just boring to vouch for teams without a background and while at it, make Hoshishiro the champion again in the end. So if you are an adrenaline junkie hoping to see lots of action and gunfights, you’d be disappointed. Though you might be impressed with Hotaru’s athleticism in his demon mode like as though he got training from Bruce Lee, Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan and all of the great Chinese kung fu masters to pull off those cool physics defying manoeuvres.

One thing I hoped for in this series was at least to feature some of the cool guns and firearms. Maybe not go into so much detail but at least with some decent amount of information. Sadly, they aren’t and are just briefly touched upon. Maybe they don’t want to bore you with all the technical details since a casual viewer won’t really notice or be interested in such things. Even so, maybe it is the fear that one might developed a very dangerous interest in guns. Because for realism, even if they are just toy guns, they look real and in today’s age where everybody is just jumpy about the slightest thing, it isn’t such a good idea flaunting those weapons in public. The basic and standard survival game rules are also briefly touched upon and not elaborated much. Good for casual viewers so as not to confuse and bore them with all the technicalities and develop some character drama but bad in a way as it doesn’t make the survival game theme standout.

If you like your characters looking all that hot and cool bishonen style, the art styles of the character designs do not disappoint. Just like in other survival game animes, in a way it visually feels unrealistic because in reality you have tough macho (sometimes weather bitten-like) people mainly playing such sports. Then here you have beautiful people who are looking more like models in playing the game more than anything. Like as though such beautiful people are promoting the game, huh? Because of that, they’re ‘easy’ on the eye. Even the nerdy Yukimura has some bishonen looks instead of your typical geeky chubby otaku. Hotaru as usual has that androgynous looks that confuses anime newbies whether or not she is boy or girl. And Masamune… Blonde guys are naturally supposed to be handsome, right? Hey… Doesn’t he look a bit like Ouran High School Host Club’s Tamaki? And doesn’t Fujimori look like that Mushishi guy? This might be a long shot but I once thought Yukimura is Death Note’s L with glasses! Oh man! I must be blind!

Yoshitsugu Matsuoka is a name that has now become synonymous with male protagonist heroes similar to Kirito in Sword Art Online ever since. However in here, this is one of the very few roles in which he deviates from his typical voice acting role. As Yukimura, he sounds very lethargic and very much fits his character. This isn’t the first time I have heard him voice such character. In fact, this reminds me of that cat, Bimii in Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku. And then when he gets passionate and loud, that kind of voice reminds of another very similar character: Aito from Mangaka-san to Assistant-san To. They’re both ero manga artists, by the way… Mikako Komatsu usually voices female roles but voicing boys’ roles isn’t her first time although rare. For example, Saika from Yahari Ore No Seishun Love Come Wa Machigatteiru, Priapos in Junketsu No Maria and technically, uhm, Tsugumi in Nisekoi?

Yui Horie was recognizable as Yajima as well as Kana Ueda as Sagara (whom I though sounded so much like Rin from Fate/Stay Night maybe because I was watching the Unlimited Blade Works TV series concurrently with this one). At first I couldn’t pinpoint Eri Kitamura as Ichi. Sounds familiar but couldn’t put my finger on it till very much near the series’ end. For the rest of the casts, they include Tomoaki Maeno as Masamune (Naotsugu in Log Horizon), Kazuyuki Okitsu as Midori (Tasuku in Seikon No Qwaser) and Ryohei Kimura as Fujimoto (L-elf in Valvrave The Liberator). All of the opening and ending themes are rock based and although it fits the survival game theme of the series, somehow it just doesn’t somewhat fit the series. Get what I’m saying? The trio of TGG sings the opening theme, The Bravest Destiny while Mikako Komatsu does the ending theme, Gunjou Survival.

Overall, not really a true blue survival game genre but the drama and plot aren’t as boring that you would want to fall asleep and then wake up in disappointment like a certain survival game club consisting of high school girls. This one is more if you like bishonen characters and some mild subtle yaoi but nothing too deep. Survival games are just like life. It can be cruel, it can be blissful. Sometimes a way to take out all that frustration and release some steam before returning to harsh reality. Come to think of it, sometimes what Midori said about survival games being crueller than real life because you continue to live with the regrets and disappointment after a scathing defeat. Maybe that is why we have more wars than just-a-game-only survival games. Yeah. They don’t just play games seriously. They also take life seriously, huh?