Main race is over. Some win, some lose. But if you aren’t satiated by the thrill of horse girls racing, be glad to know there are special extra episodes, Uma Musume: Pretty Derby – BNW No Chikai for you to bet extra money and quench that gambling thirst. Oops, I mean fulfil the excitement of watching these horse girls locked in close battle derbies. As its name implies, Team Spica isn’t going to be the main stars of these special episodes but a group of horse girls remembering their promise to run together always. That promise is put to the test when they have a fall out. Nothing like a little drama to put that friendship back together again via a big race, eh? Oh the power of (horse) friendship!

Special 1
Team Spica continue their usual training. Special Week is aiming to run at Summer Dream Trophy because she made a fool out of herself at the Winter Dream Trophy. Before the race started, she was talking to her rival and before you know it, they flag off and she was stranded. Trainer comes in with good news for his girls. They will be supervisors for the cultural festival! Uhm, actually doesn’t that mean he drew to short end of the stick? We see Team Spica going around to supervise, partially I feel it’s an excuse to introduce some of the other horse girls that will not make their cameo any more. But the focus is on Biwa Hayahide, Narita Taishin and Winning Ticket (the trio collectively known as BNW). They notice their strained relationship. When they go talk to Rudolf about it, she shows them a clip from the Japan Derby. A very close race between BNW that was eventually won by Ticket. It solidified their friendship-cum-rivalry. But now what? She is organizing a relay race between them. Team Spica isn’t particularly interested until Rudolf mentions the winning team gets free sweets for the whole year! You bet they’re going on a recruitment spree! While Hayahide accepts, Taishin and Ticket are not interested. I know some of Team Spica is desperate but resorting to dumb tricks that only make a fool out of themselves? Definitely not working. Timely reminder that Suzuka is currently away overseas so she calls Special Week to keep in touch. Hearing about this problem, this reminds them about the time Trainer lectured them about their rivalry during their training camp’s mock race. It gave them a lot of motivation. Now Special Week knows what to do. And that is to say the same exact lines from Trainer to Ticket! Word for word! So what happens when she finishes? Ticket not impressed… Oh sh*t… Better think fast… Because this is so comical, Ticket starts laughing. So it’s revealed perhaps their strained relationship originated from a race where Hayahide and Ticket was running. They were supposed to win but lost. Yeah. That. Taishin was out on an injury. Anyway, Special Week now in her own words mentions about her unfulfilled promise to Suzuka but she still loves her and hopes to fulfil that. Can the same be said for Ticket? With that, the next day Ticket joins them to help recruit members for the relay race.

Special 2
Scarlet goes around to interview the teams. Ticket’s team is doing fine. Even got the motto for motivation: Sweets into our mouth! Hayahide’s team are very technical. In a serious strategy meeting now, huh? Taishin’s team… Yeah, everybody is all over the place. Even if they put up some fake delusional spirit, it’s more of style than substance. And with special effects! The clincher: They don’t even know where Taishin is and think this is okay to get them running for the relay race! Scarlet wants to report this to Rudolf but seeing she has already given a good impression to the press, oh yeah, everything is going perfect! Scarlet finds Taishin who is just being a zombie to her Smartphone. Talking to her, looks like she’s not interested. Yeah, some trauma flashback. Whatever. Taishin still won’t enter and is considering retiring. Scarlet then tells Narita Brian about this and in turn she talks to Hayahide and Ticket. Yeah, remember those good times together? Later Brian talks to Taishin. Still won’t change her mind? Brian mentions about her own devastating lost that made her think deep she wanted to quit. She gives Taishin a charm and hopes she’ll come. Everyone’s waiting. Race day is here and Taishin is nowhere to be seen! Scarlet getting close to panicking. Better set out and look for that girl. Don’t want to fail spectacularly in Rudolf’s eyes. After all, she promised her she’ll see to it this race’s success till the end. And yeah, Broye is also attending this event. Don’t screw up now. How not to because Hayahide and Ticket are even cool about making Sun Visor as Taishin’s substitute! They think this is really going to fool everyone, huh? The relay race begins and I guess that’s why it’s a relay. So we have time for some drama and for a certain someone to make it… Anyway, this race isn’t confined to the stadium but across town. That’s why it’s just weird that they have to run through a train crossing?! It feels like Special Week got the raw end of the stick and needs to wait for the train to pass???!!! Some call it unfair, some call it strategy… Of course the anchors of the teams are BNW. They are interviewed about their chances so they hijack the mic to tell Taishin to come run. This is her place to run. Everyone’s waiting for you here! Yeah, enough to change her mind and start running back. Good thing she’s watching the TV, eh? And meanwhile another race is going on: Oguri Cap trying to finish 1000 bowls of ramen???!!! Damn, she’s eating faster than the ramen can be replenished!!!

Special 3
Thank goodness it must be a short train since Special Week is able to make up time. Because it won’t be fun if they turn it into a 2 horse race. As the interviewer interviews the leaders, Hayahide and Ticket try to change the topic. However she tries to interview ‘Taishin’ and is stumped she is staying silent. She is even going so far as to unhood her. It’ll be over if Sun Visor is busted. But thankfully Taishin arrives in time. I’m sure everybody is confused about Taishin not being at her starting position but what the heck, the real deal is here so let’s continue with the race. However there is another emergency. Hayahide suddenly becomes sick. Probably searching for that charm during the rain was the culprit. Oh Taishin, too late to blame yourself and trying to take responsibility. It’s already done. With Hayahide unable to run, Rudolf makes an announcement that the race will end when the relay reaches the anchors. That will be the finish line. Everyone is disappointed. But don’t worry. We’re not here to cheat your money. Because Brian will step in to replace Hayahide. She is after all her sister. Technically her name still covers for her team. So we see a very close race between the trio that has Taishin winning, Ticket in second and Brian coming in third. However! The judges start deliberating. Because Gold Ship went off course and accidentally took a short cut, hence Taishin’s team is disqualified. So does this mean the win goes to Ticket? Nope. When Special Week missed passing her sash to Vodka, Vodka took something else to replace it. Disqualified! So it’s Brian’s win? Also nope. Because McQueen is accused of blocking her opponent’s path. So… Nobody wins?! Yeah, Rudolf confirms it. Damn, is this the most disappointing race? But don’t worry. Even though BNW was unable to make their full proper appearance here, be happy to know they will be racing in the upcoming Osaka Hai race! I guess everybody can overlook this farce and look forward to this one. Probably Oguri Cap is the only legit winner after finishing her thousand bowls. Yeah, she looks like super pregnant… Finally we get to see BNW race together at Osaka Hai. Another close fight between the trio that has Hayahide winning. Great race. Won’t lose next time. But of course.

Run Of The Mill But Keep Running
Luckily I didn’t bet any money on any one of the teams so I didn’t lose. Haha! Anyway, these extra episodes don’t really add anything much to the main storyline as seen in the TV series. Because with Suzuka away overseas, it’s like the rivalry between her and Special Week is put on hiatus until the former returns. With that, they focus on BNW and if you’re a casual viewer like me, you’re wondering why the heck? Who the heck are they? Well, not like it is going to make any difference if they focus on other horse girls. Because again there are loads of other horse girls introduced here that don’t matter that it makes you wonder if it is actually relevant or not. I don’t remember if they are introduced in the TV series and even if they were, they’re just insignificant at least as far as this series go. My conspiracy theory is that there are many great race horses throughout the years in the Japanese horse racing derby. So in order not to have a few being left out, hence their cameo here just for some sort of tribute. There, here is the name of your favourite horse personified as a horse girl in this anime. Happy? Now, be gone!

Back to the main BNW trio themselves, I fail to see anything that would have made these special episodes, uhm, special. Sure, they have some sort of failure in the past. Hey, you can’t win every damn race you enter, right? One failure was enough to give Taishin some trauma and then it strained their relationship. Then plot convenience commands that they should get back together for the greater good because there are lots of fans who are still supporting her and them. Also probably lots of other people betting lots of money on her! Haha! So Taishin, you’re still young and healthy, don’t you even think of retiring after one moral zapping race lost! If I had to bet on one of the team, I would have chosen Ticket, because you know, it’s in her name, baby! With a name like that, how could you lose?! Oh wait. She didn’t win… Thank goodness I’m not addicted to gambling in any forms. Especially horse racing. On a trivial note, initially I saw the title as BMW! It would have been weird if those horse girls had that automaker’s speed and power for a race… Too weird.

Overall, fans of the series as well as the game should appreciate these extra episodes better. Casual viewers like me won’t find anything special and wonder what the fuss is all about. We’re probably here just to see the novelty of so many different horse girls and the strange racing cosplay because it is mind boggling how Hayahide, the one whose outfit looks so heavily dressed is the one who won the Osaka Hai race. I still believe if the horse girls wear appropriate attire like human female athletes, they would have run much faster. And Hayahide might have won by a few centimetres instead of a close photo finish. Just saying. Well, I also sometimes believe that even if you win, you still have to go out and win in style. Same for those who lose. Hey, at least you lose in style. Everybody wins. Horse girls win because they get to race with each other again. The fans win because they are entertained by all the horse girl racing action. Sponsors win because it brings in more revenue. Punters win because they made money from all the bets. Uhm, except maybe those who bet on the wrong horse and lost heavily. BNW: Bet, Nit, Wager…

Manaria Friends

May 11, 2019

I never expected this series would see the day of light that it would get released. You see, a few years ago when Manaria Friends was scheduled to be released, it was then hit with some sort of unexplained problem that caused it to be postponed indefinitely. So instead, we got the very amazing and awesome sequel of Shingeki No Bahamut. So I suppose whatever technical issues they faced then were solved now since it finally got its airtime. Although it is set in the same world, it is entirely a different storyline and not related to that fantastic action adventure. The daily lives of 2 best friends from 2 different races studying and spending time together in this exclusive academy.

Episode 1
Princesses of their respective races, Anne and Grea are having breakfast together. Anne asks why Grea studies here at Manaria Academy and it is because Grea’s mom was an alma mater. Suddenly Lou comes crashing in. It seems there is an emergency at the library. The phoenix guardian is mad after Lou accidentally stepped on it. With the librarians having a hard time dousing the fire, Anne steps in and unleashes her frozen magic. In the aftermath, Hanna beats herself up over her uselessness to contain the emergency and believes she isn’t fit to be the class rep. Anne then returns to Grea and is shocked to find her still waiting at the same place just for her. I guess it’s too long the wait that it’s time to go get something to eat. Owen narrates he is one of the greatest paladins of the kingdom. But one day he is tasked to be in the service of the princess. He notes Anne is blessed with great magic and has long studied how to be an effective ruler while striving to improve herself, thus making her popular at school. However he noticed a hint loneliness in her smile. Owen keeps watch over her but he looks like a suspicious stalker…

Episode 2
Grea is in great pain that no magic or medicine can help. When Lou brings in forbidden books thinking it might help, Anne gets an idea and darts off. So she’s like rushing to every place and completing some sort of tasks to get the whatever? Man, why does this arduous journey feel like a method to get the ultimate video game cheat code or equipment?! Even when Anne makes it back, she still needs to analyse it?! You mean it’s not ready?! Can she make it?! Because now something is happening to Grea… Uhm… Just shedding her scales? But since she is fine, this brings a great relief to everyone. Yeah, Grea didn’t remember all that and didn’t realize how big that incident was. Grea gets embarrassed when Anne keeps some of her shed scales. Later Grea thinks her tail has grown bigger is a sign of getting fat. She tries to diet and hide it from Anne. But Anne eventually sees a tail and finds it splendid. Unfortunately Grea didn’t take that as a compliment as she walks away depressed. Was it something Anne said?

Episode 3
Anne and Grea head out to town. Anne thinks her incognito will work but everybody soon recognizes her. In town, they discover a secret alley that leads them to a shop filled with various (cosplay) clothes. Turns out this shop is owned by their teacher, Miranda and this is her big hobby. But since school prohibits a side job, Miranda agrees to let them take whatever they want just to keep quiet. And so Anne tries her hands trying different outfits, much to Miranda’s glee. Grea wants to stay out but the cosplay maniacs force it upon her. She looks beautiful in that dress to say the least. Later when the duo go boating, Grea can tell Anne is afraid since she is holding onto her tail. Anne lets out a secret that she cannot naturally swim although she can use magic to float, etc. Grea thanks her for letting her come along today. Anne so happy that she rocks the boat. Thankfully it did not capsize but has them in an ambiguous yuri position. The mood is right for Anne to ask if she can stay in her room for a sleepover. Sorry, Grea rejects. Anne sounds so surprised… The reason being Grea’s bad habit to sleep cuddling her tail. So embarrassing she doesn’t want Anne to see. After Miranda finishes class, instantly she pops up her atelier and let her passion run wild. Once done, all she needs is somebody to try them. Anne and Grea return to retrieve something they forgot. Welcome, my guinea pigs…

Episode 4
The test is coming so you can see everyone studying and putting their focus into that. But why does Anne feel so sad? Why does she look forlorn? Does she feel left out because she is smarter than the rest? So we see some flashback of her waltzing into some place whereby she saw and heard Grea playing piano underneath some giant beanstalk tree for the first time. The test come and go. I know Anne is so smart that she handed in her paper first and probably got full marks. But does she have to walk away like as though she’s still so sad about something? I mean, what’s eating her? Thankfully, Grea notices this. So she finds her sitting at the piano. So it turns out that she was lonely all the while. Yeah, I guess that happens when you’re a genius. So with the test over, this means she can continue to do friendship thinks with Grea. On a side note, why do I have a feeling this episode feels like promoting this particularly calming piano piece that is permeating throughout the episode?

Episode 5
Finally we get to see some action? The academy is under attack by waves of monsters. Hanna as the student council president is in charge however with buildings collapsing, the monsters advancing their invasion and those getting injured increasing, she is under immense pressure. Will she flip? She wonders what Anne would do in such situation. Anne and some of the other students and teaching staffs are located safely in the other half of the school. Anne wants to help but is reminded of her duty and stay put. With the situation worsening, Hanna makes the decision to abandon their base and evacuate. When they are at a final stretch, a golem pops out from the ground. Grea tackles it but is no match. But thankfully here comes Anne to help out. With Owen guarding her back, she summons a giant knight to stab through the golem. It crashes into a building before crumble. That is when the teacher calls this drill off! Looks like they’re going to take a while to fix this building. Anne is an observer and shouldn’t have intervened. Now look at the damage done. As a teacher tells Hanna the flaws in her leadership, another building goes down. School is going to be closed for a while. Flashback sees the student council planning this drill. Anne was really excited to participate but is told to only be an observer since this drill will help student think for themselves instead on relying on Anne’s powerful magic. Complain this, complain that. Promise this, promise that. What to do? The answer is still the same. Life is so unfair when Anne learns Grea will be part of the intercepting group.

Episode 6
Beach episode! Sexy girls in swimsuit! Oh yeah. While we see a furious beach volleyball game (Hanna using her super flaming spikes while Liz defends by bending her voodoo doll and use Lou to block them all!), we see Grea take Anne through some dark cave. Anne is reluctant to go but Grea insists it was her idea. After all, she wanted to practice without anyone looking and Grea promised to see it through with her. At the end of the cave, a beautiful scenery of ruins by the sea. Anne is still reluctant but after constant pestering by Grea to get into her swimsuit and to not even use any magic, we see Anne being very afraid of the deep waters as she clings on tightly to Grea. Cool Grea guides her on how to float. Anne struggles at first but once she gets the hang of it, it is the best and most beautiful experience ever. Yeah, she’s doing it naturally now. Thank goodness she learns quickly. Thanks Grea. Not sure what happened to the volleyball match but I guess everything got destroyed. You thought Hanna and Liz’s handshake meant something sportsmanship but their grip is so tight… At night, all play sparklers and fireworks. It’s Anne’s turn to pester Grea for a sleepover. Look who’s turning all nervous now.

Episode 7
It must be a slow day as Grea helps Anne with her library job. So bored that Anne reads a book on how to snag a man. It even comes with a love potion. She wonders if it will work on a girl. I guess they’re really bored and no one is visiting the library on a rainy day so Anne suggests playing hide and seek. Anne counts to 100 as Grea hides. Anne is confident to know where Grea is hiding but she’s not there. Slowly as she looks around, the enthusiasm turn into worries. Where are you Grea? Has she really vanished? I guess Anne regrets this game and calls out to her this instant. Then she floats down. Miss me? Instantly teary Anne hugs her. Found you anyway. Later as Grea is invited to drink tea with Anne, she is suspicious if she laced it with the love potion. It doesn’t help with Anne sounding pushy and suspicious. Uh huh. She made it extra special today… As they talk about the books they read, Anne says she reads the kind that would bring them closer. Much closer. Grea freaks out and spills her tea. Is Anne trolling or Grea just overthinking?

Episode 8
Today is a big day. It’s the school play. Miranda just finished putting on Grea’s costume and she looks stunning. Gorgeously stunning. However she is nervous and naturally her stomach feels pain. But Anne interprets that to an extreme point. She thinks it is really big trouble and will use her magic to cure her! Luckily Grea convinces her it isn’t such a big deal. To help calm her down, Anne starts reciting her lines from the play and Grea also follows suit. The play begins with Hanna belting out a spectacular opera-like hymn. With Anne realizing it would be their turn next, now it’s her turn for her stomach to feel pain. Nervous, aren’t we? Flashback to earlier in the morning, we see Hanna up early practising her lines, Grea also up early but still feels nervous and Anne… She just went back to sleep. Pretty confident, eh?

Episode 9
Tension between Anne and Grea?! Really?! It all started because Anne saw Hanna coming out from Grea’s room. Anne was upset that she wanted and begged to go to her room but was always refused. They’re not on talking terms and this awkward silence is causing those around them to fear! It gets worse when Hanna calls Grea for some help. Anne then avoids Grea like a plague. As Grea spends time alone, she remembers all the moments spent together with Anne. I guess that’s when the power of friendship says it is enough. Grea rushes to find Anne and finds her sitting at that piano. The power of friendship weaves its magic. Grea sits next to her, touches her hand and invites her to tea. Okay. There. Back to friends again. We see Hanna giving a brave speech to her fellow student council members. What’s this? Something about some chaos will destroy the world and that this crisis will threaten the peace? Grief and despair? War between nations? She’s going to protect everything? Is she talking about Grea and Anne? Wow. So touching and moving that her friends want to support and help her! As she and her team make their way to Anne and Grea, looks like they’ve already made up and are back to being best friends. Hanna looks like a fool now. Deep in shock, she screams to return all the time and effort she spent to solve this!

Episode 10
With the seniors graduating, Grea ponders how much time they have left together. So Anne gives her a letter and they’ll talk about this when she returns from her trip back home to do some official duties. Now it’s Grea’s turn to be melancholy. She wanders around the campus and not even the library is her best friend. She goes to Anne’s room but it’s empty! Except for the bed. Probably it’s too big to move. Grea feels sad and starts crying. However Owen is here to get her as Anne was looking for her but couldn’t find her. Grea asks about her empty room. You mean she hasn’t read the letter yet? It states her application to share a room with Grea. Remember what she said earlier about how much time they have left together? Perhaps the best excuse to get yuri with her every morning. Oops! With that, Grea signs and acknowledges the slip and makes it official. We see Anne returning to her homeland to do her duties. Once she is done, she wants to leave immediately but her father the king wants to chat. She is not thrilled about it because yesterday’s quick chat lasted till sundown! Hence she makes her sneaky escape through all the secret corridors in her castle until she meets Owen outside for her getaway carriage. She says studying and experience at the school are her important priorities right now. But I can think of the other greater importance… Yeah Grea, Anne’s coming home soon…

Serenade Of The Bahamut: Madonna Friends
After all that mind blowing fantastical action in the first two Shingeki No Bahamut series, is this considered a let-down? Not quite. Even if the pacing here is slow and there is nothing much that basically happens, it is still able to weave a decently beautiful tale between 2 friends. But that is basically so much about it and if you really want a lot more than this, you’re definitely going to be disappointed. This slice of life series is meant to go at a slow and relaxing pace without any sort of convoluted plot and twists that would have ironically undermined the beauty of this series. Sure, there might have been some trolling moments (like the ‘attack’ on the academy) and ‘suspenseful’ moments (Grea being sick as well as Anne and Grea having a fight that turned Hanna into a worrywart, overthinking it to be the end of the world), but eventually it all boils down to the wonderful nature of their friendship. So those who are into fast moving plots, you’ll have to look somewhere else.

Some of the stories are really exaggerated and trolling like that attack on the campus. Even when Grea was sick and Anne and Owen went to great lengths and journeyed across the universe just to get some sort of solution that eventually didn’t amount to anything. Is this their brand of humour? It feels weird but, okay. Whatever. Some just feel like a long draggy drama like that hide and seek episode. You expected some sort of punch line or twist (or maybe jump scare in this instance) but in the end, perhaps we did a Hanna and overthink, thus nothing really happened.

At times I was contemplating with myself if because of the slow and relaxing pacing of the series, with nothing much that happens, are the characters a bore too? Well, there are always 2 sides to a coin. The problem when you are trying to expect something from characters and then they don’t turn out to those expectations, it is surely disappointing. Therefore this series just showcasing their friendship might simply be nothing much. Some might go, “So what?”. But if you stop being impatient to want to see their character development go somewhere, you would realize that being slow and steady is what builds this development. Like they say, it is the journey and not the destination that matters. Therefore watching Anne and Grea’s friendship unravel at a snail pace over the 10 episodes might not seem to amount to anything much but that is where the beauty of this series lies. You don’t come into this anime with any sort of expectations. You just go with the flow and accept all that has to offer. If you do basically just much that, the characters and series are very much enjoyable in this aspect. So sorry folks, don’t expect this to turn into some hentai flick with a hot dragon chick banging a cute human girl.

It would have been a lot better if the series fleshed out more of Anne and Grea’s back story but in some ways, perhaps it is a good thing that we just know them as best friends forever. Anne being seemingly the perfect princess who could do almost everything but she also harbours a few insecurities of her own (like swimming and fear of losing Grea as her friend) that makes her less than perfect as others may seem to think of her. She as after all a princess. At least for the human side. Grea is on the polar end with her character being meek and reserved despite being from the dragon race whom we all have stereotypic views that dragons are fierce and majestic. It makes you wonder if she is of the same dragon tribe that Nina of the original series is from. But I suppose the series do not want to delve too deeply on their character background and instead continued to focus on their friendship. Hence that’s why the English title of this series, Mysteria Friends. Maybe there is a certain charm when you don’t know much about the characters. Because if you do, you’ll look more like some sort of obsessed fan-cum-stalker!

Not much to comment on the other characters with Lou looking a lot like a comic relief character. Due to lack of screen time, she is almost as forgettable as the rest. Including Owen whose role is just hiding from the shadows and guard his princess. Probably the most wasted role ever since there is hardly anything threatening and even if there was, Anne probably could have handled it herself.

If the story and characters do not interest you, perhaps you would be a little more impressed with the animation and artwork. To say the least, the sceneries and backgrounds around the academy are picturesque and quite breath-taking. They are quite nice to look at if you are feeling a bit bored from the slow pace and this eye candy makes it worthwhile to sit through the 15 minutes. Though, the character designs are just normal and average, nothing really that spectacular. Just want to comment how Anne suspiciously looks like Princess Principal’s Princess. And Anne’s a princess too. Hmm… Suspicious… This series is done by CygamesPictures, a subsidiary of Cygames who developed the Shingeki No Bahamut series.

Voice acting is also okay with me recognizing Nana Mizuki as Hanna and Kikuko Inoue as Miranda. But I was stumped to learn Anne is played by Youko Hikasa and going back to listen to her lines again, I still couldn’t really imagine it was her. Maybe I have come to stereotyped her to sound something like Rias from High School DxD so making this slightly squeaky voice made her unrecognizable. The other casts are Ayaka Fukuhara as Grea (Kasumi in Dies Irae), Wataru Hatano as Owen (Gajeel in Fairy Tail) and Kimiko Koyama as Lou (Komoe in To Aru Majutsu No Index). The other spectacular thing about this series is the background music and I believe the piano themes are the one that take the cake. It is slow and easy, definitely relaxing. So once again, if the story and characters are too slow for you, the visuals and the music balance it out to make it enjoyable.

Overall, this series might not be for everyone and personally I was initially on the fence to call it boring or interesting. Seeing the hectic pace that I am watching animes these days, it soon dawned to me that perhaps sometimes this kind of slow and relaxing anime is what I need to relax my mind. So yeah, I personally rate this series to be a little bit more than average towards the interesting side. Perhaps the reason why our main characters’ friendship could blossom so peacefully because the other casts of the original Shingeki No Bahamut were on the other side trying to deal with all the chaos. And then one day, maybe, just maybe when things are so boring and slow, that we’ll get to see some hentai flick of a hot dragon chick banging a cute human girl.

Yama No Susume S3

January 19, 2019

Why do I have a feeling that Yama No Susume S3 came out nearly after 4 years the second season aired was because it is to rival Yuru Camp? I guess we are going to have another cute girls doing cute things but with a new subgenre of outdoor lifestyle. Or maybe it is to coincide with Mountain Day on 11th August. Or maybe our characters haven’t conquered Mt Fuji fully yet and hence the need to remind us that another season is necessary. Well girls, take your time and only climb when you’re fully prepared. Because it’s not like Japan’s most beloved mountain is going anywhere, right?

Episode 1
Aoi wants to give a gift to Hinata so she wonders how she could combine mountain climbing and night scenery for it. So when she asks Hikari about it, she thinks she has got a boyfriend. Even the owner thinks so and gets worried? After hearing her out, Hikari suggests Mt Tsukuba as it has quite a night view. Aoi thinks it is a good surprise idea. Aoi brings unsuspecting Hinata to Mt Tsukuba who seems to just go along with the flow. When she tries to ask, Aoi averts the question. She’ll find out when she gets there. The night climb sure brings a different experience and when they get to the top, they are amazed by the night lights of the city below. Hinata is surprised but Aoi is most surprised herself at how beautiful it is. So is this a failure or success? As they sit and admire the scenery, Aoi renews her motivation to train and learn more to take on Mt Fuji again. When they take the ropeway down, they see a lot of romantic couples flirting. It blushes Aoi and it doesn’t help when Hinata comments they are a like a couple too. Hinata wants to stay for a while since the lights here are pretty too but Aoi cannot take all this anymore and wants to leave right away.

Episode 2
As advised by Kaede, climbing Mt Fuji now is dangerous because of all the snow. Guess they’ll have to wait till next spring. So for the time being, they go shop for some hiking shoes. Oh, bring 40,000 Yen too. Better not compromise on safety. At the shop, the knowledgeable salesman makes some recommendations. After getting Aoi’s feet measurements and the shoes, Aoi tries to practice climbing on a small miniature slope. She finds it hard to walk in. Kaede advises her to walk with her whole foot instead of just using her toes. Aoi doesn’t look satisfied as she still thinks she would like to have a cute pair since she is going to splurge that kind of money. And then it’s like this pair is signalling to her with this blinding light, “Pick me! Pick me!”. And so Aoi has found the shoes she wants. A few advice to inspect shoes before climb as Aoi also learns how to tie laces so it won’t come loose. They test their news shoes with a practice hike on Mt Tenran. Aoi feels at east walking in them and realizes why they are now heavy and stiff. Feeling you’re ready for Mt Fuji?

Episode 3
Aoi’s mom suggests Hanno Alps for her next hike. Did Aoi lie to mom because she knew Hinata can’t make it and didn’t tell her so as she would not stop her to go? You know how worried moms get when you go hiking alone, right? At the site, Aoi decides to take the easier route but soon gets a little tired. This track must be dead since nobody is around and she can’t help ask around for help. Finally a spot to rest. Much needed rest. Luckily soon after, Kokona comes by. Now she has a companion. Aoi is thinking of going home now but since Kokona wants to continue hiking, I guess she can’t lose out. The hike pays off as they get to take pictures of elands in their natural habitat. They arrive at a shrine with few deities and a giant pair of sandals. There’s some legend about the gods protecting your legs from injury if you pray sincerely but I wasn’t interested :(. They pray at the shrine and no prizes to guess Aoi’s wish to conquer Mt Fuji next time. With the breath taking view too, Aoi feels great that she has gained a little more confidence from this tough walk. So this is tough? Kokona was like no sweat.

Episode 4
We take a break from anything mountain climbing or hiking related as Aoi begins the new school term. As usual, she is nervous in making new friends in her own class. Some take an interest in her because they are amazed at her knitting skills. She is invited to hang out with them but this only makes Aoi more depress as she starts overthinking how she might not fit in. This must be more stressful than hiking. At the karaoke joint, Aoi is in her usual nervous mode. Her friends sing better than her and when it comes her turn, she thinks of using the toilet as an excuse but Hinata ‘cuts her off’. Aoi knows a song but fears this mountain song is so obscure she will be laughed at. Then Hinata starts singing it. It boosts Aoi’s confidence as she sings another less popular song (although she is still obviously nervous). Luckily her friends know it and soon they start singing along together. In the end, Aoi and friends had fun. Just a little more of this and she’ll be part of the gang in no time.

Episode 5
Aoi, Hinata and Kokona make their way to Gunma as Mt Tanigawa holds special place in their hearts. However they’re not climbing the mountain this time but to visit a special attraction there, Lockheart Castle, a very Scottish medieval-like castle. They meet up with Honoka who is also supposed to join them on this trip. We see the quartet having fun inside its many attractions as it lives up to his name with so many heart-like locks hanging everywhere. They also have a chance to dress up as a princess and do anything to their heart’s content. At the end of the day, Honoka’s brother is here to pick her up and the rest realize why she is reluctant to say anything about him. I’m not sure if trashy is the right word but you can hear his heavy dubstep beat from his car… Yeah… Honoka is very embarrassed and even more so when onii-chan doesn’t understand why she is acting so differently when she always swoons over him. Oh dear… As Honoka is a shy girl, no punch or beat down. Back home, Honoka enjoys the many photos they have taken together.

Episode 6
Aoi sees Hinata trying mountain coffee and thinking she would be teased for not being an adult, she decides to try one too. But first, Aoi practises making some and although it tastes bitter, her mom likes it. Yeah, you didn’t follow wrongly the instructions wrongly. Aoi at the coffee shop tries to look up for some beans. I believe there are brans she hasn’t heard off. Sausage? There, she meets Kaede and Yuuka and tells them what she is doing. Yuuka understands Aoi wants to be a cool person but it would be cooler if she likes what she likes. Aoi and Hinata then hike up Takayama Fudo-son as the former try to show off her coffee making skills. The coffee is bitter as usual as Aoi ponders if this is how adulthood is. You bet. And then Aoi witnesses this atrocity. Hinata putting milk in her coffee! Hey, it’s not like Hinata said she liked mountain coffee, right? Everything was just Aoi’s paranoia. Here, have some milk. Tastes good, right? So the lesson of the day is not to be an adult when you’re a kid. Take your time to become an adult. Oh, you’ll need it when the time comes…

Episode 7
Hinata wants to take Aoi to the planetarium tomorrow but apparently she has work so looks like she has to go herself. Out of habit, Hinata sometimes think Aoi is with her but realizes she is all by herself. It’s no fun being alone. Keep this up a few more times and maybe a few will take notice and think you’re a mad girl with an imaginary friend. Meanwhile Aoi is doing her best at the patisserie. A little girl who came in to buy a cake for her mom who just gave birth, she is short of money but the owner gives a discount seeing it is such a special day for her. Can’t ruin a customer’s smile, can you? Even after the store is closed, Kokona’s mom came in late to buy some cake as atonement. Unsure what to choose and the ones she wanted are out of stock, Hikari dispenses her knowledge on some of the cakes (which she learnt from Hikari who learnt from owner) for her to make her decision. Aoi goes home tired but her effort made it worth it. Yeah, a reminder that Japanese are the best in providing you the best service!

Episode 8
Honoka calls Aoi to invite her to Mt Akagi. At the same time Hinata called but since Aoi isn’t picking up and was on the other line, Hinata got ‘jealous’ of the other person she is talking to. So Aoi calls Kokona to invite her to Mt Akagi. Now, Aoi calls Hinata at this moment and of course she can’t pick up as she is talking to Kokona. Hence Aoi is ‘jealous’ that her best pal is talking to somebody. Geez, can’t these girls have other friends outside their groupie? Next day in school, both feel very awkward to ask each other. When Aoi finally has a chance to ask, somehow Hinata declines. And WTF she was hoping Aoi would continue to pester her into accepting?! Too bad it didn’t happen this time. Hence Hinata meets up with Kokona for their trip as well as Aoi and Honoka (is her brother going to play his dubstep music all the way?!) also heading there but from the other side. Honoka is quite knowledgeable about the town they pass through while Kokona knows her way through the tough hiking trail.

Episode 9
Continuing their trail up Mt Akagi, Aoi has no problems in climbing the numerous steep steps. All those mountain climbing must have really paid off. They arrive at a hotspring that Honoka wishes to try. Might as well since they are here. Aoi is reluctant but since Honoka is already getting naked, if you can’t beat them, join them. It is a good thing too because the water is warm and relaxing. But of course. Which Japanese hotspring is not enjoyable?! Meanwhile Hinata and Kokona have reached the peak and make this picturesque spot as their picnic area. If you think the weather is going to ruin their day, don’t worry, God loves lolis so he makes those ‘angel stairs’ phenomenon instead for them to be awed. Honoka and Aoi finish and head back. Oh dear. Honoka has to put up with more of her big brother’s embarrassment. Big brother wonders why she is quiet? IF YOU JUST TURN DOWN YOUR DUBSTEP!!! They arrive at a shrine and like any other Japanese shrine, you can write your wishes. No prizes to guess Aoi’s is to conquer Mt Fuji. Aoi parts ways and takes a train home. Coincidentally, Hinata and Kokona are on board this same train. They catch up on each other’s adventures.

Episode 10
Aoi and Hinata are invited by their friends to Ikebukuro. Hinata is unable to come as she will be out with her parents and Aoi is left in a lurch. She fears that Hinata would tease her for being unable to hang out with others without her. But back home Hinata finds out she mixed up the day with her parents and hence she has free time. It makes it awkward for her to join (fearing Aoi will tease her for the mix up) in but she worries about Aoi. So instead she hangs out with Kaede and Yuuka. Too bad Kaede dreads Yuuka the Spartan teacher because that is basically what this hangout is going to be. Hinata is awed after hearing Kaede’s ambition to go to college while still wanting to continue mountain climbing. Meanwhile on Aoi’s side, they all had fun. But one of the friends make it a point for Aoi to remember her. Yup, for the years that they were in the same class, Aoi never knew her! At least now Aoi is much more approachable than before. Hinata sees Aoi having a swell time with her friends and it’s that worried look on her face that she doesn’t need her anymore.

Episode 11
Hinata is still reeling from the fact that Aoi has new friends. Kaede invites them to hike Mt Mizugaki and Mt Kinpu. They’re going to climb the mountain and spend the night there so prepare your tents. Aoi and Kokona spend the night making food. Thankfully they didn’t doze off at the kitchen. However when morning comes, not even the alarm clock could wake them up. It took a while for Kokona to wake up but it’s going to take a lot more effort to wake up that heavy sleeper. Luckily they’re just in time. Just a second late and they could have missed the train. Because of that, Hinata is clearly upset as she lectures them about taking care of their health. Why so angry? What’s the deal, girl? They’re sorry, right? Even when they hike up the mountain and set up their tent, Hinata is still visibly mad. She makes careless moves that could have injured her. I’m sure the picturesque view of the mountain should blow away some of her blues. Hmm… Maybe it’s going to take a bit longer.

Episode 12
Watch some beautiful stars in the night sky before tomorrow’s climb on Mt Kinpu. Next morning as they begin their journey, it seems Hinata injures her knee but chooses not to say anything so as not to ruin the journey and worry her friends. Eventually she cannot go any further and tells her friends about this. She wants them to carry on while she makes her way back down. Of course Aoi will not leave her friend behind and will stay with her. So as not to waste this trip, Kaede and Kokona can go on ahead. So I guess this is necessary so the duo can amend their friendship and go back to how it always was like before. Yeah, believe in them to quickly reconcile because there’s no merit to drag out this drama, right? Okay, okay, we made more friends but they are still each other’s best friends. We get it. Can we move along now? Kaede and Kokona return and show them the nice pictures they take of the peak as they prepare to descend. Aoi accompanies Hinata home. Hinata raises her hopes when she says she has got a present for her but won’t tell her what it is. So we get to peek at it first? This weird owl flower thingy…

Episode 13
Aoi’s stamina has been steadily increasing as she prepares for that eventual date with Mt Fuji. Had not Kokona reminded her, she would have forgotten about Hinata’s birthday next week! It is suggested they do a surprise party for her. Kaede would have loved to join but not if Yuuka sensei has something to say about studying. Aoi is tasked to choose a gift since she is her best friend. Yeah… Technically not wrong. Unfortunately Aoi doesn’t have a clue what Hinata likes. Lots of ideas but eventually they’re unsuitable. Yeah, that means a baby sister isn’t possible. So why do we need to have flashbacks of Aoi’s sad unsociable life and the thought she could make it alone through high school until Hinata popped up? Oh, the memories. I guess Aoi is so stuck and acting weird that when Hinata asked, accidentally she spilled the beans about the surprise party. Oops. Hinata laughed hard but thanks her because it made her really happy. And then the secret thing Hinata wanted to tell her… I guess we’ll have to guess and wait as she whispers in her ear… More typical friendship banter from the duo. Life’s good. Soon they celebrate Hinata’s birthday and Honoka joins in via video conferencing style. Even her brother wants to join in?! And thankfully Kaede ditched studies just for today to celebrate this special occasion. So I guess the present they got for her is some makeup kit. Will Hinata look beautifully mature now? She looks like a clown… Oh well, a few more practice…

Yuru Climb
See you again? Sure. Hope it won’t be in another 4 years. Honestly I don’t find anything that special with this season. Is it because of the many years this series was ‘absent’ and hence my failing memories? As said in my previous blogs, I was never a mountain enthusiast and this series failed to spur any sort of mountain climbing interest or healthy outdoor lifestyle living. Otherwise how do you think I managed to complete and watch so many animes every season?! What I’m saying this that this season feels pretty drab to me and there was nothing really special that piqued my interest. I’m sure some of the mountains featured here are like mini advertisements in hopes of garnering some interest to not only climb the mountain but visit the other local attractions in the vicinity.

This season still has its share of mountain climbing and hiking but somehow I feel it is not as prominent as its previous seasons. Maybe I don’t remember much. So in place of that, we have this character development and as always, the ‘yuri’ relationship between Aoi and Hinata. Nothing new until the part where they start to ‘fight’. Yeah, I guess we needed some friendship drama because it’s getting boring with all the happy-happy and sparkling smiles of eagerness to climb mountains. And so they ramp up some drama of Aoi and Hinata with their friendship on the docks because they’ve been so best friends with each other for so long, seeing them mix with other groups is unthinkable. Yeah, I wonder how they came to a conclusion that means bye-bye to their friendship and move on to new friends. Remember, their friendship only blossomed recently and they were away from each other before that. And as expected, such friendships must be mended in the end because it shows some growth in characters of accepting the other has other circle of friends than themselves. Your friend is also my friend. Gee, what a happy carefree world.

Kaede and Kokona aren’t prominent in this season and so is Honoka. Kaede seems to be slowly turning into some reluctant studying slave while Kokona still remains her cute side. Honoka feels like an extra-extra character because if they feel they needed an extra character, they just bring her into the picture. Because she doesn’t really feel like she is part of the circle of the main quartet. The only amusing character is Honoka’s brother because of his penchant to play his dubstep 24/7. Does he ever turn off that thing? When you hear the dubstep, you know who is around. It’s interesting to see the other side of Honoka as she tries to hide her love for her brother but dense big brother can’t tell and continues to spill the biggest secret she wants to keep from her friends that she is a doting little sister. I guess all of us have sides that we don’t want to see. With Honoka hanging out more with her friends but still cannot not rely on her brother for transportation, I guess she’ll have to live with the embarrassment. Ah, they grow up so fast.

Art and drawing still maintain its quality and although it might not be so breath-taking that you want to pause your video and let tears roll down your eyes to appreciate the masterpiece background and sceneries, well, sorry if I was exaggerating but yeah, the background and sceneries still provide nice eye candy if you ever get tired of watching our loli drama. Heh. The opening theme just like in previous seasons is sung by the mountain climbing quartet. But with Yuka Iguchi as Aoi starting off the song, I don’t know, it makes the entire song sound so girly despite all the jazzy fanfare. Even more so when it reaches Yui Ogura’s turn (Kokona’s voice). It’s the Aoi-Hinata duo combo for the ending theme, Irochigai No Tsubasa which sounds a bit hip hop and a bit better than the opener. Can’t help wanting to go “Yo! Yo!~” at certain points. But overall this song has some dramatic elements that makes it feel it is also suitable for a visual novel game.

Overall, this season feels average since mountain climbing is given a lesser limelight and replaced with some power of loli friendship drama. Plus, Aoi didn’t get to conquer Mt Fuji yet and it still remains her (pipe?) dream so I suppose that gives another excuse to make another season if there is a need for it. Hence perhaps this is another reason why I didn’t find this season so appealing because instead of taking on the final boss of all mountains in Japan, they continue to attempt and conquer smaller ones. It’s not a bad thing but we’re mostly here to see little girls conquer the risky and treacherous mother of all Japanese mountains that the Japanese themselves revere and admire so much. Oh right. Kaede said it is dangerous to attempt Mt Fuji at this time of year. Oh well, I suppose until that adventure takes off again, looks like I’m going to wait and watch season 2 of Yuru Camp first! XD.

Uma Musume: Pretty Derby

September 9, 2018

What could be more exciting to see horse racing? Unless you love horses and races (or just a flat out gambler), I don’t think anyone would be interested in seeing horse racing. But leave it to anime to turn that around and make it ‘interesting’. Yes, you don’t just see horse racing, but horses anthropomorphized as cute girls running on race tracks! You might be thinking if we wanted to see cute girls running, why don’t we just watch a 100m or 400m athletics meet? That’s why they are horse girls… Anyway, I was sceptical at first to watch Uma Musume: Pretty Derby for this reason. But learning that this series was created by Cygames, the one who made the awesome Shingeki No Bahamut as well as the pretty average Granblue Fantasy, I decided to give this a chance. It’s not like there is going to be a twist in the plot of horse girls turning into heroic characters and slay the evil resurrected dragon. WOULD THEY???!!!

Episode 1
Special Week arrives in Tokyo keen to make her dream to become the best horse girl in Japan come true. Being the country bumpkin, she misses her stop. Don’t worry, she can run the rest of her way there. At the racetrack, she is enthralled by the beautiful and popular Silence Suzuka. Rumours of molesters in the big city might be true. Some guy starts feeling up Special Week’s legs. Never stand behind a horse when it kicks… Special Week is annoyed he keeps following her but don’t mind, the race is about to start. As expected Suzuka wins it. More leg molestation by that dude. Sure he doesn’t have leg fetish? The other special thing about this race is that the podium winners will hold an idol concert with the winner being the centre. Special Week is so awed with everything that she realizes she is late for the school she is supposed to transfer to, Tracen Academy. I guess there were some horse girls are kind enough to let her in. Special Week introduces herself in class as we are so introduced to some of the main ones like Haru Urara, Grass Wonder, El Condor Pasa and Seiun Sky. Then we are briefed with the race system of the many different kinds of ranking races with G-I being the ultimate. When asked what team she wants to train with, Special Week wants to be with Suzuka. Lucky her. There is an entrance test for Team Rigil, the strongest team in the school in which Suzuka is in. The winner gets to join the team. Special Week takes this chance to race. We see her determination and special skill of boosting her speed in the closing stages of the race, impressing a lot of people. Just when she thought she won, it is El Condor Pasa. As Special Week laments her loss, she is kidnapped by Gold Ship, Daiwa Scarlet and Vodka to their room. Special Week is shocked to see that molester. Call him Trainer and he is the trainer of Team Spica. Here is another shocker. Suzuka also just transferred from Rigil to Spica today since they don’t understand how she runs. Say what? You mean running fast just wasn’t enough. Okay. Technicalities, I guess. With everyone having their own dreams, Trainer wants to help Special Week achieve hers and since the Twinkle Series is starting next week and with enough members, he is going to make her debut run. So soon?

Episode 2
Special Week must be special lucky for Suzuka to even be her roommate. Special Week is summoned to see the student council president, Symboli Rudolf who is a Triple Crown winner. I’m sure we don’t understand the school’s motto of “Eclipse first, the rest nowhere” for now. Yeah, it doesn’t make sense. Rudolf assigns Tokai Teio to tour around the school. Then back to more rigorous training for Special Week. Is playing Twister is legit because how does this help in opponents bumping into you during the race? Maybe you have to be stretchable? Fuji Kiseki who is the dorm head, tells Suzuka to take care of Special Week since she grew up without any other horse girls her age. So now she gets special treatment too? When Trainer has a meeting with his team, the plan is to have no plan! Just run the way she wants to run. That night when Special Week looks nervous, Suzuka talks to her. She finds out she has 2 mothers. Her natural mother who is a horse girl who died shortly after giving birth and her adopted mother who is human. As they were both friends, mom adopted her as her final wish and raised her as her own child. She also trained her to be a competitive horse girl and Special Week’s promise to her is to be the best horse girl. Special Week makes her stage debut and is obviously nervous. As she has forgotten her bib, Trainer has Suzuka give it to her. A chance to talk about pressure and fear. It helps eases her anxiety. At the starting gates, Special Week gets intimidated by the opponent next to her. Probably her delinquent looks and crude way of talking scared her so much so Special Week makes a slow start. So we see her starting from the back of the pack before using her special boost to pip the leader and win the race. She is amazed with everyone cheering for her. I know, everybody loves a winner. Of course this means Special Week now gets to be the centre of the idol concert. One problem: She did not train for this and so she just stood there like a rock!

Episode 3
Other members of Spica also win but they too didn’t practice dancing and hence their concerts all end up in shambles. Hence Trainer has them train singing with Teio. She is a good karaoke master. With Trainer acknowledging Special Week as the only one who can win the Triple Crown in their team, her first race for that is Yayoishou in which she must win the Satsukishou which acts as its preliminary race. The unique thing about this track is that the final stretch is an uphill battle so she is going to need a lot of willpower. The opponent she needs to watch out most is Seiun Sky. The race starts with Special Week doing well and Seiun Sky is leading. Running up the hill part, she uses all her willpower boost to pip Seiun Sky and win it. As they celebrate, Teio drops a shocking announcement that she wants to join Spica. Originally from Rigil, she talked to Rudolf about it and that her goal is to be like her and she wants to have fun running. You mean she can’t do that in Rigil? Rigil more like Rigid… More training for Special Week and with a few wins under her belt, the mood and motivation are good. Suzuka even gives her specially made boots as a gift. That’s not all, as Satsukishou is a prestigious G-I race, she must also dress the part. Yup, time for to see what kind of cosplay our horse girls will don. Honestly, it looks pretty tame if you compared it to other teams. As the race starts, as usual Special Week is propping up the back but manages to slowly pass her opponents. Seiun Sky starts to pull ahead and Special Week does her specialty but finds she cannot close the gap. Even during the uphill, she still cannot catch up. She maintains her lead to win it with King Halo coming in second and Special Week finishing third. I suppose when you’re on a winning streak and then you suddenly don’t win, it’s a real bummer. So with Special Week yelling out her frustrations about being arrogant, Trainer does the same with her about not training her better. He tells her to use her loss to get stronger. She is going to beat Seiun Sky in the next race, the Japanese Derby.

Episode 4
Special Week is so down that it’s obvious. Yeah, it’s making her clumsy too. Then a wakeup call. She gains weight. Time to train harder. On a side note, Urara is doing well in her derby match and El Condor Pasa dominates her race. When other horse girls learn of Special Week’s troubles, they agree to help her on her diet. Time to put away the temptation and prepare for Sparta training. That includes high diving. Because you need guts! Trainer reviews Special Week’s run and he realizes her flaws. So he goes to see Hana Toujou, the trainer for Rigil to request a mock race between Special Week and Taiki Shuttle who is the fastest short distance horse girl. Basically a sprinter? As Special Week is still worried, Suzuka is even more worried. Because she put on weight (ouch) so her clothes can’t fit (ouch) and might hurt herself. Trainer advises her the usual: Don’t think. Just run. She’ll learn much more in the real deal than training. The race begins with Taiki Shuttle sprinting ahead. But Special Week manages to keep pace thanks to running in her slipstream. Then the uphill part as Taiki Shuttle starts pulling away. Special Week then notices her running rhythm and adjusts to it. It seems while running uphill instead of taking bigger strides, run in smaller steps. This enables her to catch up but Taiki Shuttle is still fast. In the end, Taiki Shuttle wins by a whisker. Special Week might have lost but she looks happier as she had fun running. Spica watches El Condor Pasa run in some race and win it. Hana announces that in order to get her to the global stage, she will be running in Japanese Derby too. El Condor Pasa challenges Special Week to run against her.

Episode 5
In order to help Special Week overcome the uphill obstacle, she trains to run up steps of the shrine. Meanwhile Mejiro McQueen still hasn’t join a team and Teio suggests she join Spica because Gold Ship threatened her with a pile driver if she failed to do so. McQueen remembers Gold Ship harassing her but it always backfires. She relents but might change her mind after Trainer molests her thighs. However with Gold Ship being close to tears, McQueen falls for this bait and will just sit in for now. The Japanese Derby is here. As it flags off, King Halo and Seiun Sky take an early lead while Special Week and El Condor Pasa are running in the middle pack. Seiun Sky then surpasses King Halo until the final uphill stretch where Special Week’s training pays off. Using her stamina and mini strides, she manages to overtake Seiun Sky and turning her into a frustrated horse girl. However this is also where El Condor Pasa sprints ahead. Man, this has got to be the longest final 50m stretch as Special Week tries her best, pushing herself to the limits and not giving up as she keeps pace with her rival. Conveniently her teammates are seated right at the finish line and using the spirit of friendship power, Special Week has some power boost to catch up with El Condor Pasa. But it is a close finish and it requires a photo finish. A tie! Joint winners! Uhm, I guess there is no provision to say there needs to be a special runoff to decide to winner. Yeah, the crowd is happy about it, even more so with them hugging each other. Lesbian horse girls, crowd loves it. But I think Special Week wins because she is somewhat the centre in the idol concert. And who the f*ck is that third place horse girl in that concert? You mean it wasn’t Seiun Sky or King Halo taking third place?

Episode 6
Special Week writes to her mom to update all that she is done. This includes Spica doing well and winning many of their races, McQueen officially joining Spica, some weird beach training and finally it’s time for the Twinkle Series Fan Festival. Highlights include Rudolf killing it as a butler café, McQueen taking her fortune and it says bad luck (oh, you know who), a doughnut eating contest won by Oguri Cap and Suzuka at the weirdest moment revealing she can’t run with them next year because she is trying her luck overseas. That is why she needs to win races in Japan in which she has been doing recently. Special Week is happy for her but it’s not surprising she feels sad too. Later Suzuka talks alone to her about her reasons for that. She has always had fun running and didn’t want to give up on that every time she raced or trained. That’s why she opted out from Rigil into Spica. She’s having lots of fun right now and wants to run in more races. Trainer talks to Hana and knows the problem she is facing with Grass Wonder. She is one of the top stars in Rigil but due to a nagging injury, this is going to hurt a lot more people than her if this persists. In this next race, Mainichi Okan, Suzuka will face off with El Condor Pasa and Grass Wonder. As the race starts, Suzuka takes the lead. El Condor Pasa plays catch up as usual. On the last stretch, it becomes obvious that Grass Wonder cannot keep it and thus it becomes a 2 horse race. El Condor Pasa is stumped that she cannot keep up with Suzuka’s pace and in the end Suzuka reaches the finish line. Suzuka is so focused that she didn’t know she crossed the line after a while. El Condor Pasa is sad this is her first loss but has to admit that Suzuka is in a class of her own. With Spica dominating, Hana is not pleased Rigil is on the slide. But does Trainer have to rub it in?

Episode 7
Special Week loses to Seiun Sky again in Kikkashou. She makes a promise with Suzuka to run together but looks like they have to push forward that date because after the Japan Cup, Suzuka plans to go to America. Hana continues to train Rigil as they note how Suzuka has become a different horse girl ever since joining Spica. Usually there are strategies and tactics while running a race but for Suzuka, it is like she doesn’t care about all that and just runs the way she wants. Trainer has Spica do some strenuous training to find some inn. Thankfully they reach there by night fall. Suzuka takes this chance to tell the rest about her American move, shocking them. Special Week pleads to Trainer she wants to run with Suzuka in Japan Cup. This means a member of the same team will lose but it all boils down to running with her. During the Tennoushou race, Suzuka takes an early lead and starts to make a huge gap. El Condor Pasa and other horse girls are shocked that they cannot catch up. Suzuka continues to increase that lead until something very wrong happens. She starts slowing down and runs in a very bizarre manner. Everyone is shocked as all horse girls zoom pass her. Suzuka didn’t finish. El Condor Pasa won the race but nobody is happy. Nobody. Suzuka wakes up in hospital and it seems her left foot is fractured. This is due to all the intense training and she never let it up. While her feet will heal and she will run again, it is not known if she could run at top speed again like she did today. Blasting the gloom and doom away is of course Special Week who reminds about their run. Suzuka always keeps her promises, right? So look forward to that! And with her teammates supporting her, this is just the beginning of their next stage.

Episode 8
Special Week has been visiting Suzuka every day and trying to cheer her up. But I don’t think that is to blame for her losing Japan Cup. Looks like her dream to run with Suzuka will have to wait a little longer. Suzuka has healed enough for discharge and go into rehabilitation. They have a special New Year party as they watch Winter Dream Trophy that Rudolph participates and wins. I guess it’s special since the winner only gets to sing solo. With their renewed vows, Spica train and work hard. Special Week gets more motivation with El Condor Pasa writing her a letter telling that she is doing well overseas. In the Takarazuka Kinen race, Special Week is up against Grass Wonder. It is obvious that Special Week isn’t running at her best as she keeps thinking about Suzuka (as this was one of the races she won). Because of that, Grass Wonder finds it disappointing and zooms past her. She easily wins and in the aftermath asks Special Week if she has given her all. Time for reflection and depression. Got even time for that? That’s where Trainer comes in to remind her about her true goal. It wasn’t just to run with Suzuka. It’s to become the best horse girl in Japan and have her mom watch it. Remember that? She’d better. Because Trainer says she is going to win all her races in autumn. Wow. That’s really a massive load of confidence or foresight.

Episode 9
El Condor Pasa calls Special Week to cheer her up. But after putting down the phone, Special Week returns to her worrywart look. Trainer takes Spica for a training camp at the beach. Rigil is also there but Spica won’t be in the same luxurious hotel. It’s a rundown inn instead. Trainer splits Spica into teams and wants them to practice. They will hold a match with each other in the end. We see the horse girls train hard but it looks like Suzuka still has some ways to go. El Condor Pasa calls Rudolf to tell she met Europe’s greatest horse girl, Broye in which they will be running together in an upcoming French race. The match Spica will compete is triathlon. They’re not interested till Trainer says the winning team gets free buffet at Rigil’s hotel. Off they go! During the race, Suzuka and Special Week prop up the rear. Suzuka is still weak and Special Week wanted to help only to be told off by Trainer. Is Special Week really going to stop and help in the middle of a race? Is this Suzuka’s best? What about their promise? If they want to help each other, they should become rivals. His dream is to see them run and fight each other to be top. This motivation has them running like the wind as they zoom past the front pack. They regain their confidence to run but all that tension turns into a joke when they can’t stop to navigate a corner, went straight and crash into the sea. It was really a good laugh. At the end of the day, all of them get to eat the buffet. Everyone watches on TV the French grand prix. El Condor Pasa makes a great start and takes the lead. Not surprisingly, Broye makes her move and pips her to victory. I know everyone is screaming (like El Condor Pasa could hear) for her to go faster or even ‘escape’ but how can she do so when Broye is running even faster than her? Why are the Japanese horse girls so sad? They knew she was up against the best in Europe and were they really hoping for a miracle? Not this time. El Condor Pasa calls Special Week and excitedly talks about her experience. But that soon turns to tears after realizing how painful it is to lose. Yeah, you win some, you lose some.

Episode 10
El Condor Pasa returns to Japan to train more. We see a very motivated Special Week training hard and eating hard. It’s like she has this Duracell battery imbedded into her. Hence the next race we see her much sturdier and everyone is impressed of how well she has improved. But then she falls flat and finishes 7th. What a bummer. Trainer believes she has been secretly training instead of having proper rest. Hence he has the team rest until the next race. This means Special Week has to go back home. Mom must have gotten the memo and won’t let Special Week run at all. Mom has created a scrapbook of all events and races Special Week appeared in. She isn’t sure if she can be the best horse girl in Japan but she is going to try her best. Mom gives her a horseshoe charm she made for her. Special Week will use it in her upcoming Tennoushou race. She lets Special Week do a bit of night training. The break is over as Spica returns and do more training. Special Week and Suzuka renew their vow to win races and race with each other as rivals. Tennoushou is here and it has been a year since Suzuka was injured in this race. Although Special Week is running in it, Suzuka will not even be watching as a spectator as she has more important stuff to do as her rival. Training? The race begins with as usual Special Week at the back of the pack. Then as expected she start speeding up until she is ahead of the pack and holds on until she wins it. Seiun Sky and King Halo are not sad that they lost since the stronger their opponents, the stronger they will become. But make sure Special Week doesn’t always stay ahead of you or you’ll always be second best.

Episode 11
Big news! Broye is going to run in Japan Cup! Why? To show everyone she is the strongest horse girl. Yeah, she’s going to show you Japanese horse girls why European horse girls are better. This means Special Week has to practice harder and also this is Suzuka’s comeback race. Broye tours the race ground and even does a demo run. Her time shows she is way faster than Rudolf. French horse girl can understand what Japanese journalists say but choose to reply in French? Where’s the damn translator?! They don’t have the luxury of subtitles like us viewers :). Snippets of hard work and training. Even El Condor Pasa gives Special Week some advice and wants her to win. Suzuka enters the race a day before Japan Cup. She is given an ultimatum by her rival, Sun Visor. You know how in such situations they will always have to eat their words, right? As the race begins, Suzuka is as expected at the back. Everyone thinks she is still injured and Sun Visor is disappointed. But in the last stretch, Suzuka initiates her secret move. Not really secret. She just runs faster than everyone else. She never looked back since and crosses the finish line well ahead of Sun Visor. So Sun Visor not congratulating her and promising to beat her the next time, that’s like being a sore loser? Suzuka returns to her happy friends and rivals who prepare to celebrate her victory. And now it’s time for the main course, the Japan Cup. Showdown between Broye and Special Week. You can disregard all the other participants.

Episode 12
Broye might sound arrogant and confident in winning (more press conferences for her?) but I guess this is what to be expected from a champion. She’s not disrespecting her opponents. Special Week’s mom is also here. Coincidentally she bumps into Trainer and Suzuka. She asks if her daughter has a chance to win. Wait. I know winning is everything but I thought at least she would ask if her daughter is going to give it all (even if it sounds like a no brainer because mother believes in child). We also see Special Week gets lots of support from her friends. The real race is here but before that, Broye pecks Special Week on the cheek, sending the crowd into shock. Is that some sort of declaration of challenge? Well, it could have been worst. I mean, a French kiss… Special Week has learnt some French words from El Condor Pasa but apparently she didn’t Google it to double check so her cocky statement offended other French horse girls. The race starts with Special Week propping up the back. Broye is following close behind her to observe her move. So when Special Week begins her sprint, Broye also does so. However Broye starts sweating that she cannot gain an inch from her. In the end, the power of support enables Special Week to win! She is the best horse girl in Japan! And possibly the world too seeing she beat the best. But it boggles me if Broye couldn’t even catch up, was her super practice time a fluke or did Special Week break that record? Anyway, everybody is so happy with her win so we don’t care about it. It seems Special Week will only do a solo concert. Apparently French horse girls don’t have idol concerts and they can’t speak Japanese. So be double thankful for Special Week’s win, you idol fans out there! Before she starts, she is interviewed and her speech of wanting to make dreams come true and giving those who cheered on her dreams too, led to lots of tears flowing. Now the Tokyo EX Winter Dream Trophy is around the corner. We have an all-star cast for this ‘battle royale’. Special Week, Suzuka, the other Spica teams, El Condor Pasa, Grass Wonder, Oguri Cap, Fuji Kiseki and Rudolf are among the names. But wait. No Seiun Sky or King Halo?

Episode 13
Special Week writes to her mom on the great achievements of everyone in Spica. Suzuka won all her G-I races and went to America. But I guess what she did there wasn’t important because now Special Week is at the airport to pick her up from her return. With Winter Dream Trophy approaching, there is a big party and press conference. Trainer remembers his own struggles where he was left depressed and devastated when horse girls quit, thinking he wasn’t serious in training them. Only Gold Ship remained. After seeing Suzuka run, he got motivated to get back up and started recruiting. And look where Spica is now. More rivalries and revelries between the horse girls. Before the race, Spica wants Trainer to say a few words. The usual. Don’t think. Just run like they always do. In this big derby of 18 horse girls, Suzuka makes a strong start by taking the lead. Then in the final stretch everyone catches up for an intense final battle. I suppose Trainer is the most anxious because he doesn’t know who to root for. Can he root for everyone? But yeah, there can only be one winner. In the ultimate f*ckery, because f*ck, don’t tell me everyone crossed the finish line at the same time! This would be more than just coincidence because I will suspect fixed game! Well, I’ll be damned because all of them are featured in the idol concert. Giving AKB48 a run for its money… I want to think winners and losers get to sing onstage for this concert too… And prevent fans of certain horse girls getting targeted if ever there was a clear victor. During the concert, Trainer spots a new potential horse girl being awed with everything. He feels up her thighs. Expected horse kick. He asks about her dream and she’ll definitely achieve it if she doesn’t give up.

Horsing Around – Pretty Derpy
And so they lived happily ever after, running and racing and singing with each other. Wow. Life is such bliss for these horse girls. They make it look like it is so easy being a racer and an idol. Uh huh. They must really have the stamina to do all that with a smile and still have the strength to live their lives. Oh right. Who am I kidding? There are horse girls. Horses, damn it. They should have stamina that would allow them to gallop for miles and kilometres. But I’m just pondering with all our featured horse girls in the Winter Dream Trophy being so powerful because the narration said it’s like they’ve won races and hold so many crowns of so many races, I wonder if they will continue to dominate the racing scene and obliterate every other horse girls. Unless they’re just village champs, get what I mean? Otherwise they’ll go out there and dominate the world! Not fair to point out what happened at Suzuka’s short exploits in America but I guess she coming home isn’t just to fulfil her promise with Special Week but I am thinking more of the lines that there is no place like home.

There isn’t much plot to begin with. With Special Week being the main focus, it is predictable that it is mainly going to be about her starting as an amateur with dreams of becoming the best horse girl in the world (but of course, which horse girl doesn’t harbour this dream but because she is main character, she is one of the lucky few who got to live out her dream), becoming a dark horse and then a local hero and favourite who will become the best at the world stage while technically still remaining as herself. A few struggles in between, some few obstacles in between, becoming stronger physically and mentally, nothing that our horse girls cannot overcome because the power of horse friendship.

I can’t also say that I am very impressed with the character development because it feels pretty predictable and cliché. Though, I don’t mean that in a bad way. The main focus is on Special Week and Suzuka. They have their bonds but I just don’t feel that they are particularly close enough. Special Week feels a bit like a retard for comical purposes and Suzuka as the other end of the pole as emotionless. But when they put their minds to it, they become formidable. The other downside about the characters is that there are too many of them! Even more if you want to count all those that are just irrelevant. I know that the horse girls are taken after and are personifications of real life race horses in Japan. So by featuring a lot of them but reducing them to just minor and unnecessary background characters sometimes feel like they need to pay homage and tribute to these certain horses but sorry since you aren’t main character, that’s all the time you get. Yeah, I don’t even remember their names.

Therefore for horses like Urara, I don’t even know what the heck her role is besides her ‘running joke’ of going and returning from trips of races in other areas. It’s not like she is in Spica, Rigil or any of the other nameless teams at Tracen. I also noticed that if you observed closely at Tracen, there is one glutton horse girl who keeps eating and shoving her face with food in the background. She is named (like any other horse girls who are introduced, their name will pop up on the screen) but I can’t remember seeing how insignificant her character is. As for other horse girls, for example Spica. This is what I summarize them as: Boring irrelevant rivalry between Scarlet and Vodka, Gold Ship’s constant harassment over McQueen, McQueen coming from a famous pedigree but nothing more is shown about her achievements and Teio with her dreams of becoming like Rudolf seems like a distant dream that Special Week achieved hers already. What the heck is Sun Visor’s appearance for? Only one episode as Suzuka’s rivalry and that’s it? Feels redundant.

Trainer is being a good and nice guy but mostly feels irrelevant because otherwise watching horse girls train themselves without a proper trainer would feel just weird. You know that when they get lost, at least there is someone who will guide them back on the right path. But I have a feeling that he really doesn’t have a plan. Every time he tells his horse girls the same thing of not thinking and just run. Well it’s good in a way because sometimes the best strategy is not to have one. At least in their cases. It’s just running and run faster, right? So with him telling this every time to his horse girls, don’t they expect that this is what he will most probably say? Maybe they hope he’ll actually say something different, huh? Hence with Trainer and his no-plan strategy, it is like as though the master is trying to make the student think to come up with an answer when he himself doesn’t have the solution. And he’ll go along with whatever the students come up with.

On a trivial and very unfortunate note, the real Special Week passed away while the series was still running. It feels like an irony that the show that made it its main character and for that main character to just pass away, it just feels sad. Because of that, I was wondering if Special Week winning against Broye was some sort of tribute to the real counterpart, making it even more special for those who have close ties to that real horse beauty. RIP, Special Week. Your legacy lives on in the anime! At least for those who don’t know you in real life. But something feels fishy (or horsey?) because if Special Week can beat Europe’s best horse girl, she can’t beat the rest from Tracen?! This is assuming all of them crossed the line at the same freaking time in the final episode’s derby!

If you want to talk about the races in the series itself, personally I find them boring. Therefore I see them drumming up typical anime style drama and tension just to hype up some excitement. Which isn’t really exciting in my books. Yeah, blood needs to be spilled and characters need to die for me to be considered exciting! Woah! Such a bloodthirsty sadist I am. The races follow this somewhat and predictable pattern. The supposed winners whom you could predict and get it right for 90% of the time would usually make a slow start or prop up the back of the pack. In the final stretch, they will exert all their power and make a final dash to the finish line. I wonder if they run on extra friendship power because that seems to be the booster always. There is no real magic so there is hardly any variety to see other than the horse girl running faster. That’s why they added in a lot of other effects to try and make it super exciting but I did not buy into that. No wonder in certain ways, the final episode’s Winter Dream Trophy felt something a bit lacking. That’s why they wasted time dedicated more screen time showing other non-racing stuffs.

So whenever they pass some random horse girl participant who often spout “Muri!” (technically means “Impossible!” but translated as “I cant!” for accuracy), I keep thinking how the heck these other participants even get to participate in the race. I mean, they are horse girls. They’re supposed to have stamina, right? As they reach the end or being zoomed past by our main characters, you hear them complain this line. I mean, I know you horse girls won’t win but how the heck did you get in the front in the first place? Did you sprint like 100m sprinters and use up all your energy but forget there is a few 100 more metres to go? Yeah, that kind of attitude will not let you win races. But in the true spirit of sportsmanship, we often see the winners being humble and the losers being gracious. No wonder the crowd loves them all. I’m wondering if a horse girl wins a race, what kind of prizes does she get besides bragging rights. Don’t see them winning money or cash prize. No jockey, so that’s one less problem. I suppose enough for them to keep racing because this isn’t a dark series where bribery and fixed racing is rife. It’s all about the passion of running!

The one thing that kept me boggled during such races is that the outfits they wear. Because they look more like cosplayers than anything! Sure, they are supposed to look good (that’s why it’s called Pretty Derby, I guess) and I agree on that. But some of the outfits that I see them wear are just freaking wind resistance. No wonder they can’t win. That kind of outfit is not even conducive for running! Oh well, if you can’t win races, might as well look good while running. This is the big reason why I say Broye CANNOT beat Special Week! I mean, take a look at Broye’s outfit. Basically a prince charming outfit with a fur cape. A FUR CAPE!!! How does that not let her being dragged down by wind resistance?! No wonder she lost. And Special Week must be smiling and be thankful for her win. Merci. But I still find it amazing that even after the race, the outfits are not messed up one bit. Are they put together with special glue and material?

But in view of this, now that I look back at it, there is no fanservice whatsoever! Despite their weird costumes, there are no sleazy shots or even bouncing boobs just to attract that male demographic attention. So maybe that is why this series works in a way. They didn’t have to resort to such underhanded tactics and can still go on to make a pretty decent story. I’m sure it would have been distasteful but remember, these horse girls were taken after real horses so don’t want to disrespect them. Oh by the way if you’re asking, Trainer’s thigh molestation doesn’t count as real fanservice. That’s sexual harassment!

Aside from what is seen in the anime, there are other mind boggling questions that I want to ask especially about the horse girls. One of them includes: How the f*ck do they breed?! Okay, I accept that in this world there is another intelligent species of horse girls. But like in its name, they are all only females. Who the heck fathers them?! They have mothers but no fathers! If they are being fathered by real horses, OMFG!!! IS THIS CONSIDERED BESTIALITY!!!! This is f*cking weird just thinking about it. Even weirder than porn! Besides, with horse girls in this world, are there even real horses?! Surely you don’t see them in the city but it really begs the question. Yeah, what do people ride on before modern transportation? Thinking of how they sit and ride on horse girls is just weird. Very weird. The more I think about it, the weirder it gets. Hence…

This thought just came up. Do horse girls have the same rights as humans? Or are they just animals with some human rights? Because if that is the case, can I have a horse girl as a girlfriend AND pet???!!! Oh sh*t! Again, this arises the beastiality question if one tries to perform something kinky when making out with a horse girl. Yeah, what kind of offspring while you get if a human mates with a horse girl… Very curious questions… I wonder if our relationship would also be stable… Haha!!! Also, imagine if weird rich girls instead of wanting a pony as their present, they want the best and cutest horse girl. So awkward…

Another weird concept I want to question is: The horse girls’ ears. Yeah, they have a pair right on top of their head. Actually I never noticed this until they started talking on a phone. The landline one. Because I noticed the receiver is long enough to reach their mouth and to the ears on the top of their heads. At least this dispels the question or any oversight that those ears are useless and only for decoration. But this also begs the question if they also have human ears on their side. I cannot ascertain this as all the horse girls conveniently have hair long enough to cover their side. Imagine if they have no ears there… I would look like horror! And if they do have ears, it makes me ask a new question if they can really use both sets of ears. It would be awesome if they could. Also to note, as all the horse girls have different hairstyles for differentiation, can I say that this is their mane?

Do horse girls who have serious injury and cannot recover be put down? Thank goodness for Suzuka recovering (and Grass Wonder too) and of course I believe injured horse girls will be forced into early retirement instead of being put down. But how come I don’t see any old horse girls becoming trainers? Why are the trainers humans? This means, how long is a lifespan of a horse girl? Don’t tell me they all die shortly after childbirth! That would be too tragic. Besides, seen any old or retired horse girls around? Do you even know their parents?! Sheesh. This is getting even more worrying the more I ask.

Art and animation feel average but I’ll give them points for putting in the detail and do not slack during races. Because it is during that animation where it gets hell to animate. You know, when they run, their arms moving back and forth. Now you know why animators save a lot of time, energy and money animating anime series like Naruto, when they run, their arms are unanimated and we all believe it because of that aerodynamics crap. If not for the different hairstyles, I think I might get confused with their generic looks. Like Special Week and Teio look close to each other thanks to that white strip of hair they got. Thankfully their different outfits and other accessories also help. I always somehow keep thinking El Condor Pasa is a Zorro wannabe… This anime is made by P.A. Works but since I’m not into furries (can horse girls be considered as furries?), I didn’t really see their trademark gorgeous bishoujo art style here as seen in Hanasaku Iroha, Tari Tari, Shirobako, Sakura Quest, Glasslip and True Tears. But I guess better to have horses anthropomorphized as girls than the other way round. Yeah, talking horses with makeup and dresses would be awfully weird.

There are lots of seiyuus lending their voice due to the many characters but the only one I recognized is Rie Kugimiya as Sun Visor. The rest of the main casts are Azumi Waki as Special Week (Mai in Toji No Miko), Marika Kouno as Suzuka (Yua in Hinako Note), Minami Takahashi as El Condor Pasa (Megumi in Shokugeki No Souma), Machico as Teio (Serina Nishiyama in Sansha Sanyou), Saori Oonishi as McQueen (Aiz in DanMachi), Kouji Okino as Trainer (Tetsutetsu in Boku No Hero Academia), Azusa Tadakoro as Rudolf (Chtholly in SukaSuka), Megumi Toyoguchi as Hana (Revy in Black Lagoon) and Akari Kitou as Seiun Sky (Kaho in Blend S). Broye who speaks all her lines in French is voiced by Haruna Ikezawa (Yoshino in Maria-sama Ga Miteru). Since I don’t know nothing about French, I can’t say id her French is authentic or just another of those ‘Engrish’ type. But to be fair, she is born in Greece! Although raised in Japan. Not sure if she is halfie either.

I never really think of this series to be an idol one. Sure, there are a handful of idol bits but that is not given its prominence unless otherwise. So there are quite a few songs in this series. Aside from the typical upbeat opening and ending theme, Make Debut and Grow Up Sunshine respectively (both sung by the members of Spica), there are special ending themes that are slower ballads to pull those heartstrings and work up those feels like Arigatou Kamisama by Special Week and Silent Star by Suzuka and Find My Only Way by Spica. Then there are those idol-like songs like Endless Dream, Koi Wa Derby and Nanairo No Keshiki but I’m not really attracted by them.

Overall, not a bad series but if you do not place too much expectations, this series is still enjoyable in its own right and even without the need of putting in any blatant fanservice (even the swimsuits during the beach training is very modest and nothing sexy nor revealing). The plot and characters might be predictable and cliché but also satisfying in its own pace in seeing how the characters grow and bond. I won’t be betting that this series would get a popular following. Sure, the game and the anime itself will have their own set of fans but if you’re talking mainstream, not very likely. Unless an upset occurs. But for these horse girls, they are more than happy for us viewers to watch and cheer them run. Once they’ve achieved their dream, they know that they can gallop away into the sunset knowing that they lived their life to the fullest and giving others hopes and dreams. Unless I bet on the wrong horse, then all my future dreams are dashed while they dash to the finish line… It’s still a race after all and the winner still takes it all.

Amanchu Advance

August 4, 2018

Man. I’ve never expected Amanchu to have another season. But here it is, Amanchu Advance as its second season. Another dozen episodes of calm scuba diving and underwater submerging tranquillity. Could they really be going the way of Aria and have more sequels? Whatever the future for this series, they’re taking it slowly and at their own pace. Enjoy the moment. Always look to the future with hope. Imagine a series about diving teaching you all these stuffs.

Episode 1
Teko and Pikari are supposed to meet at grandma’s place. When Teko (riding on a scooter) arrives at the intersection, Pikari starts running! Probably Teko is a safe rider so Pikari beats her to the ‘goal’. Next time she’ll start running when she reaches the bus stop. After hearing Teko’s narration on her gratefulness of meeting Pikari that changed her life, the girls have to help out with grandma since the beach house is packed with people. Later after another round of diving with customers, Pikari suggests the siblings to join her in a hot bath boat provided by the facility. A hot bath? In this summer heat? No thanks. As Pikari soaks alone, she notices the customers (a group of old guys) getting into the next tub. She realizes she forgot to wear her bra and hence a possible nip slip. Thank goodness for her handphone as she calls her friends. Due to them being busy at the moment, nobody picks up. She ultimately texts for help. Ai finally sees the message and tries to help her. She didn’t realize she is topless as she tries to pull semi-conscious Pikari out. Will the old men have the best view of the day? Thankfully here comes Teko distracting them with free pork soup before putting back Pikari’s top. Safe. Too bad Makoto got kicked by Ai for nothing. To thank Teko for this, Pikari suggests a BBQ tonight. They go shopping and some like Mato help contribute to the seafood BBQ. During the party, Chizuru sends Teko a picture of a steak in hopes of making her jealous since coincidentally her side is having a BBQ party too. What a downer. Later Pikari and Teko talk alone about their worries that one day they will soon have to part and the fun will end. I know it’s good to prepare but they’re taking this so seriously. Pikari in denial refuses to let that happen! Can’t envision a future without them together, eh? But since there are lots of things they want to do, they can’t imagine that yet. Even if that day comes, they’ll be sad. But they’ll think of all the fun times because fun is infinite. Yeah, whatever logic fits the bill to beat the blues. Cue for awkward confession they like each other.

Episode 2
Pikari sees a local boy near her place. She goes diving with him and shows him an octopus nest. Although impressed, he won’t tell his name. Back at grandma’s, Pikari sees the fireworks festival poster and invites her friends to come. She’ll make it real special for them. Next time Pikari sees that boy again and knows he is trying to find the octopus nest but couldn’t find it due to the change in tide. She will lead her there in exchange he tells his name. Kokoro Misaki. Pikari fawns over his cute name. That’s why Kokoro didn’t want to tell her. Kokoro sees an eel trying to hunt at the octopus’ nest. The eel ‘warns’ him. Now we see a short epic battle of the octopus fighting the eel! Kokoro feels sad he can’t help the octopus but is relieved when the octopus mom returns to her nest safely (but with some bruises). After they part, Pikari realizes too late she should have invited Kokoro to the festival. On that night, With the exception of Teko, the rest didn’t come in a yukata, disappointing Pikari. Pikari doesn’t see Kokoro around and Teko starts worried and overthinking about her new friend but comes to terms that Pikari is the type who can easily make friends. Thanks to Pikari’s hard work, the friends get front row VIP seats to watch the fireworks. It’s such a good view that they shower her with praises. Pikari loves it. Keep it coming… This fireworks display has Mato remember her own when she was young. She was too short to see so an old woman lifted her up to watch the magnificence. She gets to see this similar scene again thanks to Pikari. Next day, Pikari finds Kokoro at the usual spot. However he is depressed. The octopus mom is gone. Kokoro investigates but tries to stop desperate Kokoro trying to swim further to find it. She tells him the harsh cycle life of an octopus. Its mom will fast until its offspring hatches. In the end, it will always die. If the nest is unlucky, predators will find and eat it. But all is not lost as the nest hatches and they get to see the wonderful phenomenon of small translucent octopus babies scattering around. It’s like their own underwater fireworks.

Episode 3
Mato teaches Teko how to use an underwater compass on land. She seems to handle it well. Until the real test. Because she has to do it underwater alone and without Pikari. Gulp. Visibility is very limited as Teko sums up her courage to make her first step. All goes well until she realizes she is alone. Can’t see anyone. Is she lost? She starts overthinking and close to panicking that she has messed up. She thinks of quitting by rising up to the surface but after thinking Pikari might be disappointed with her, she continues. She remembers other lessons like observing her surroundings and the ripple marks on the sand. It leads her back to her pals. Success. When they are cleaning up on land, Teko notices Ai and Makoto not packing up yet. That’s because they are going for night diving. Of course this spooks Teko and she declines joining them. At night, Teko and Pikari see off the siblings as they show off their bright lightings to be used. They are awed to see so many divers and their lights as it reflects off the surface of the sea. Despite Teko having a better view on night diving, she is still scared of diving in darkness but hopes to overcome that. Mato finds Teko up early next morning. She massages her feet to help relax her body. Since Teko still has low self-confidence on the things she does and always keep dreaming things, Mato tells her all the good stuffs she did was reality. Writing them off as dreams would be a shame. She can’t change the past but can change herself and the future. Teko is now further motivated to overcome her weaknesses and relishes all her special memories are real. Well duh. Can’t be dreaming this entire time, right? Her next goal is to get her advanced licence.

Episode 4
Summer just went by in a flash. Don’t worry, autumn is here. This means sweet potatoes! Yay! At the shopping district, Kokoro spots Pikari but doesn’t want to call out to her. Too bad she spots him and now hangs out with him. Meanwhile, can Teko suddenly tell the future? Because she can tell the things that are going to happen around her! Then she realizes this is a dream. She is cool about it. Because she takes a broom and flies! OMG! Has this series become so boring that they resort to this? Heck, even the girl next to her is shocked at what she saw. As Teko confirms to her that this is a dream, she even teaches her how to fly! Uhm, Flying Witch? They fly all over town and to the park where they see the autumn sakura. On the other hand, Pikari hears out why Kokoro has been depressed all day. Somebody teased her and scribbled her about having octopus lips. Pikari trying hard not to laugh… When Kokoro says he is going to find the culprit and smack him, Pikari thinks he will regret it. So she takes him to see the autumn sakura. Well, it’s not really in full bloom but just small patches. But better than nothing. Before Teko and the girl could tell each other their names, the latter disappears. Teko takes this as she has awakened from her dream first. Shortly after, Teko too. She realizes this place has gotten so boring relaxing that she fell asleep. Then she calls Pikari and tells of her experience. Both are awed about the coincidental autumn sakura they saw. Teko notes that autumn has many wonders of its own but the best is that you have someone you can share the joy with. So let’s go find more wonders!

Episode 5
Mato tells about the legendary mermaid who helps those in a pinch. If you are friendly enough, she will take you to Ryuugu Palace. So our diving enthusiasts take a dive in the ocean. Teko is awed by the air rings the friends made to her. As they continue diving, suddenly Teko feels she is rising. She panics and the more she struggles, the more she rises. Thankfully Pikari and Mato bring her down. Back on land, Teko feels ashamed for failing. Due to the different level of the seabed, she had to get rid of excess air to maintain her buoyancy. She panicked and had she rose too fast, the nitrogen in the air of her suit will build up. This could be fatal and worse, when Teko was trying to swim downwards, she raised her feet and that’s where the air built up. She learnt a valuable lesson today but it’s a bit hard for her to get over the depression. Pikari’s little sister, Kodama visits. Teko learns she too has a diving licence and technically her senior. But she hasn’t dived with Pikari for quite a while since big sister often brings trouble so she maintained her distance. Pikari is embarrassed when Kodama and Teko prostrate to each other to take care of Pikari. Awkward… The gang goes diving in the sea again. After Ai and Makoto dive to deeper depths, Pikari and Teko spot a turtle and follow it. Mato then sees something swimming fast zooming past her. She thinks it is the legendary mermaid. However… It’s just a big fat grandpa?! But Mato decides to take a gamble and has him take them to Ryuugu Palace. He agrees! This dude really swims fast! Is he really human?! The ladies are awed to the colourful seabed teeming with ocean life before bringing them back. Back on the boat, Ai feels jealous she couldn’t meet that legendary mermaid. Mato has this fuzzy and warm feeling she has met that ‘mermaid’ before. We see that ‘mermaid’ turns out to be Pikari’s grandpa. This weird looking guy has become a legend now…

Episode 6
It’s the Halloween! Teko is dressed like a cute princess than anything scary. And Kokoro is a cat girl? Too bad he had to stumble into Pikari. So cute! Teko and Kokoro meet for the first time. Pikari leaves them together to get drinks. An awkward silence. Teko starts overthinking about taking the lead and when Pikari returns, both of them are so relieved. Ai and Makoto are doing an event. However nobody is participating despite the prize of a large octopus plushie. Maybe that’s why. But Kokoro seems interested… They make up some suggestions of adding extra prizes but the one that suddenly catches everyone’s attention to participate is a kiss from Pikari! Woah! See the long queue! Suddenly Teko steps in. She is going to protect Pikari’s lips! So mature? In this scavenger hunt, they have to get the item listed in the random piece of paper without letting the people know they are part of a game. It looks like an intense showdown between Pikari and Kokoro. Both have it tough. People rather be tricked by Kokoro than give him what he wants and Pikari is too scared to approach a guy, turning into a stalker and making that guy nervous! Somebody is stalking you! So when both eventually get what they need to, they are neck to neck racing towards the finish line. In the end, both cross together. Kokoro gets her plushie and Teko gets her peck from Pikari. Pikari also gives one to Kokoro. They’re joint winners, right? But did Teko and Pikari suddenly fall asleep because they realize that they are in dreamland when they could start using magic. The duo then have a Halloween dance with Teko being the prince and Pikari the princess. They snap out of their dream and realize they are in a hot Jacuzzi tub reserved by Mato as reward for their hard work. Don’t you think floating off into dreamland and then only snapping back out in a different place is a bit dangerous?

Episode 7
The students are working hard into the night as they prepare for the school’s cultural festival. But Mato knows something many don’t and she hopes Peter will not mess with her students. Teko and Pikari head to Ai’s class to sell drinks. They only have mostly gourd juice. Ugh… Their homeroom teacher, Mamoru Towano is kind enough to buy them all for his students! Damn… Ai goes to buy another drink to wash off that gourd taste (since Pikari ‘forced’ one upon her). Sitting alone on the stairs, she notes how different and quiet it is at night. Then this Peter guy pops up and wants Ai to slack off with him. She refuses and trips. I don’t know how she could do a somersault like that but Peter saves her and they both land on their feet. Ai felt as though they were both flying for a while. She thinks she owes him one and follows him as he brings her through the corridors of the school. It brings back some nostalgic memories like as though she is reliving her school days. This has her thinking if she could stay like this forever. At this point, Mato learns that Ai is missing. The girls heard she went to buy a drink but never returned. Peter asks Ai if that is how she feels. Sort of. Ai knows that despite all the fun times, it will eventually end. When Peter decides to bring Ai, this is when Mato has found her. She warns Peter not to do anything to her but he says he is only trying to fulfil her wish. But with Ai letting go of his hand, he assures he only takes those who really wants to go. He walks away. Mato brings back Ai to the crowd as confused Ai tries to find out more about Peter. He is a nasty ghost of the school and takes away those who doesn’t want to grow up. So… You mean Peter as in Peter Pan? Ai feels the shivers but tries to brush it off as untrue. Mato adds that the place where she bought the drink is the top floor. You cannot go anywhere further. That is where Peter went. Mato carries on that Peter tried to take her away once when she was a student in this school. He hasn’t aged since and looked exactly as he was.

Episode 8
Ai says Peter’s name and Makoto wonders who. Poor guy gets beaten up for nothing. She falls asleep and dreams of Peter. She wakes up and makes a dash. She trips on a can but luckily Towano breaks her fall. She gets up and continues her dash towards the vending machine. She falls asleep and enters the dream world. It is day time and everywhere is flooded ankle deep. There is nobody around either. She wonders if she has gone back in time since a candy store that closed when she was young is still open. She then spots Mato. Or at least during her days at a student. She thinks Ai is a stray and wants her to leave. But since Ai knows her, Mato explains the truth. This is the dream of a baby left at a shrine. Powerless, all he could do was dream an endless dream called Neverland and live forever. That’s how this world came to be. People who dream started straying into this world. As many people come from all walks of life, the baby takes all their info and memories and ‘grows’. He is Peter and formerly the shrine was only his world but now he started to expand it by his will. Mato knows this because she asked Peter herself. There is a flying ship in the sky and he believes that is where Peter is. So how do they get up there? They fly up there! Can you transfer experience of flying? Sure Pikari heard from Teko the expert dreamer but that doesn’t mean she can do it? Oh heck, it’s a dream so they can. Mato first met Peter during her graduation and she didn’t want that day to end. He showed her his world and she visited many times. The ship is spilling water and if this keeps up, the world will be closed off eventually. Nobody will come here again. Peter thought to expand this world by bringing outsiders but Mato was against this idea. This made him sad as he told her never to come back here again. She never saw him again and wished to do so to tell him what she couldn’t then. On the ship they see Peter. He shows them a room that leads them to a shrine where the baby continues to cry. This is the source of the flooding. The more he expands the world, the more it leaks. So he is going to stop bringing outsiders and close it forever. Mato agrees but will stay with him here. That is what she wanted to say. After they hug, Ai is forced out of the dream. Her other friends are puzzled she is sleeping here. Ai starts crying and asks Teko how to continue a dream. There is something she must do.

Episode 9
Ai is stumped that despite Mato spilling out her feelings, Peter pushed her away and holed himself inside Neverland. With Teko and Pikari agreeing to help out, they give instructions on how to dream again. Man, it’s that easy. Ai is now back in Neverland but Teko and Pikari are there too. Well, they did say they will help her. Don’t worry, Makoto is guarding them for those curious enough to get close. Flying back up to the ship, Peter’s cat is trying to close the door on them but Teko and Pikari hold it long enough for Ai to go through. At the shrine, Peter is shocked to see Ai. She knows he loves Mato and hence pushing her away so as not to drag her into this world. It is that same love why she kept returning. Since Peter is dense about love, Ai confesses she likes him! Is that just an example? If Peter wakes up, he will go back to that baby and harsh reality. Neverland materialized thanks to this cat snuggling up to the baby. Ai will not stay by his side. She wants him to wake up and cry with all his might so someone might hear and find him. Peter is okay being alone as that is how it all started. Ai disagrees and knows he is still crying out of loneliness. Since he created Neverland, he can end it. As this is the town they are in, she is sure they will someday meet. Peter has come to terms with this and agrees but notes she like everyone else will forget this dream. She promises she won’t. Ai regains consciousness as Makoto is by her side (the duo returned to class). As Ai leaves, she feels she is forgetting something until she sees Mato, she remembers. She talks to her and assures Peter will never show up again because he has awakened. Mato starts to remember too. Growing old means her memories were getting hazy, huh? They then see Peter’s cat and it is trying to lead them somewhere. The shrine. They are disappointed to see Towano there. However he knows about Peter’s story. The mother of the abandoned baby returned shortly to take him back after changing her mind. He grew up to lead a normal life. He always thought Neverland was just a hazy dream. But what convinced him to be real? When Ai tripped and accidentally showed Peter her pantsu as well as her tripping before Towano. Pantsu activated those memories! Ai leaves the adults to be alone. Awkward at first, Mato then pinches him for not saying anything. Would you believe it if he did? Ai is left in tears and heartbroken. So she really loved Peter? Who else but her brother could lend a shoulder to cry on? They return to school and the mural theme of Peter Pan is finished.

Episode 10
Teko is going to stay at Pikari’s grandma’s place overnight for the New Year countdown. It’s not just her but the rest of the friends. Mato, Ai, Makoto, the cats and even Kokoro. Oh, Kodama too because of her pyjama party with friends failed to materialize. Great food, great games. Such a great time. When the rest hear Kodama is still hesitant to join the diving club, she gives excuse she doesn’t want to follow her wandering sister around. Since they have time to midnight, grandma decides to tell stories from her youthful days. She was diving for pearls but got hooked on scuba diving. Those days, scuba diving wasn’t sophisticated. She was scorned and laughed at by other fishermen. Nevertheless she continued to dive and explored the seabed to her heart’s content. One day she was at the edge of her exploration area. But she saw something that piqued her interest. She decided to go further. It was then she discovered a beautiful spot that eventually became one of the most famous diving spots in the area. It was also thanks to all the conditions that were right that enabled her to find this gem. The kids are awed but the point of all this is to do what your heart wants to do. So diving is still an option, right? Too bad everyone fell asleep before midnight and missed the countdown. Teko gets up early and has a chat with grandma about the many things she wants to do as a person despite her flaws. Everyone wakes up in time to see the first sunrise of the year. Teko gets a call from Chizuru and Akane who are doing the same. Great timing. Mato decides they should all visit the shrine now.

Episode 11
Pikari is sick. And today is her birthday. Teko has this idea to visit her at home but outside the school gates, she sees Kokoro sneaking around. Of course he is here to give Pikari a present but she is absent. Kokoro remains distant to Teko despite after showing each other their present for Pikari. Teko suggests a ceasefire since it is Pikari’s birthday. They have the same idea of getting her a star shaped birthday cake. Upon arrival at her doorstep, it seems grandma points out a ‘problem’. Grandpa, mother, father, brother and sister all brought cakes! So with theirs, there are literally 4 cakes! But Pikari is so happy she cried tears of joy. Can she celebrate while sick? Oh screw it. Just do it! Kokoro was reluctant to say but eventually tells his birthday which falls on Hinamatsuri, a day for girls. Later Teko knows Kokoro wanted to ask Pikari for a request. Hesitant at first, he finally reveals a burn-off event he wanted her to attend. It is an event where they burn dead grass over the hill before planting new ones. So Teko organizes her diving club members to come on that day as surprise. Kodama is also here and brought her friend, Kotori whose father is a staff for this event. If Kotori looks familiar, it is because she is that girl sharing the weird dream with Teko. As the gang tour the hills, the smoke may be thick but how the heck did Teko get lost from the rest since there is only a path to follow?! Because of that, she bumps into Kokoro in the midst of his job. It is then Teko realizes he is a boy. She always thought he was a girl trying to be a macho man! Insult? When Teko realizes that his love for Pikari is of the man type, Teko wants to support him! Is this embarrassing? Even getting help from the ‘enemy’? At the bottom of the hill, all participants get ready to burn a fire barrier. Being noobs, Teko and Pikari almost falter only for manly Kokoro to save the day. This is when the rest realize Kokoro is a boy. Ai still in shock denial… Here is another shock: Kotori is Kokoro’s older sister. It’s such a small world…

Episode 12
All Teko needs is to select one more diving elective and she will get her advanced diving licence. As the gang take their usual dive, Teko snaps some photos of the sea life. But back on shore, the photos of course turn out to be less than satisfactory. Mato suggests underwater photography as her last elective but surprisingly Teko wants to do night diving. Kodama and Kotori will soon be first years in high school. Pikari assumes Kodama will join the diving club but little sister reminds her that isn’t a given yet. Although Kotori expressed her interest to see Teko, Kodama might only do so to accompany her. Then there is more talk about their worries that the fun will someday end but you know what? Why think so much? Just go all out and have fun like they always have! Teko prepares herself for her night diving. To her surprise, Pikari has brought Kodama, Kotori and Kokoro as her cheer and watch squad. Teko takes a dive with the rest. She is awed at the different view of the seabed. The gang then gather, switch off their lights and wait a while. Once they get accustomed to the darkness, they start to move. Doing so causes the planktons to react and hence lighting up like as though they are fireflies. Back on land, our divers are treated with grandma’s great pork soup. When Kotori asks if Teko was afraid, she replies of how cool everything was. She might be a bit exaggerating to say how everything is so magical and fantasy-like. Maybe. From her perspective. But it’s reality. With grandma assuring how everything will be fine, this has Kotori excited to join the diving club. In that case, Kodama too. Yay. All the gang’s here now. At the start of the new term, Teko and Pikari are fortunately in the same class. They read each other’s letter to the other. As expected, lots of thanking and the things they look forward to do together.

Subnautica: Diving Deeper Into The Abyss Of Friendship
Just like last season, I wasn’t expecting anything much for this sequel. Hence the same eternal dilemma of whether to classify this series as absolutely boring or just calming healing anime. Or both. The usual ‘shenanigans’ involving our usual suspects especially Teko, of experiencing new firsts and realizing things (meetings, partings, etc) as she identifies and overcomes her weakness at the same time. From the looks of it, it looks like she still has a long way to go. That might sound forever if you compared in today’s fast moving world and standards but in this sleepy coastal town, doing it by her own pace is justified. At least we can all agree that Teko is somewhat closer to her goal now than where she was when she first started, right?

I might have said this anime is the same boring and/or calming effect like last season. However, there is one ‘shock’ factor that I did not anticipate. It is the supernatural part. Yes, Peter’s arc was to a point nostalgic and even spooky for me even if it is not meant to scare any daylights out of you. This small supernatural arc reminds me of Aria The Animation’s second season, Aria The Natural in which that season was filled with supernatural stuffs. It was a little scary now that I think back of it. Thus there was this fear that there might be some spooky supernatural stuff just to spring in some surprise but alas, nothing of that sort. Heck, even that Cait Sith makes its cameo appearance. It made me wonder if both these series are relate din the same universe! Both series are written by the same author so there is that possibility. Making it even more possible is that there is no timeline in dream worlds. Anybody from anywhere could pop up in the same dream of someone simultaneously. It’s a mystery nobody can really explain.

Thinking further about how Peter is Towano gives me headaches because it is like that time paradox thingy. Towano only managed to survive and live on because of Ai from the future being persistent in saving him from staying forever in a closing dream world. So if the future Ai have never done that, Towano wouldn’t have existed today. Ai and Towano might not be directly related or effecting each other in their lives but imagine the things in life that Towano had done, those small little ripple effects and consequences that might have not led to Ai or any of the other characters’ birth or coming into existence. Great. I’m getting a small headache trying to reason this. But not sure if it is plot convenience that Towano and Mato don’t remember this until the final moments. Especially Mato who knows about Peter, she should have at least remembered Ai since she has been in her class for a few years! I mean, when she thinks of Peter, she should know who Ai is, right? She was an integral part of Neverland, at least in its dying moments, which is one of the crucial moments of the dream, right? Therefore brushing it off as a dream before coming to terms it was real, yeah it feels kinda convenient.

Another surprising element for this particular arc is how Ai was thrust into the limelight for once. It was always Teko and/or Pikari who has been hogging episode after episode. Therefore this mini arc saw a nice little change with Ai becoming the main character for a while. It was surprising as well as lovely to see another side of Ai that we don’t often see. Because we all remember her as the one who always kicks her brother for every and no reason at all! So perhaps we see the power of love changing Ai for the better? Yeah, it was heart-breaking too at first when Ai’s love couldn’t be materialized. But I suppose in the end we all would prefer the spunky Ai we all know. Thus I could also say that this arc has the most ‘interesting’ episodes for this season, if not the entire series itself.

Many of the characters remain the same from last season. I would mainly be repeating myself again. Despite having said Teko still has got some ways to go and things to learn, I surmise that in this season I believe she has achieved becoming an expert dreamer. Yeah, that ’nonsensical’ flying dreaming episode sealed it. It’s like telling me, if she can’t get her open diving licence, at least she can be a dreaming expert. You don’t need any sort of licence for that! Just your imagination! But don’t laugh. Because remember what John Lennon sang in Imagine? You may say I’m a dreamer/ But I’m not the only one… Yes people, the world needs not more professionals, pros, specialists, masters or experts, but dreamers! Now that she has gotten her advanced licence, she can go on to dream further. So don’t worry about fun times going to end. If it comes, it comes. You will cross the bridge when you get there.

Come to think of it, the cats aren’t very prominent here either. As though they don’t want to get in the way of our main characters. They’re just hanging around and in case you need to be distracted for a while, you can watch them do whatever cute things they are doing. Hence no proper episode that focuses on them this season. Not that it matters anyway.

Kokoro as the new character adds a little more variety. Because of all the girliness we have seen in our main characters, Kokoro is more of the stubborn and manly pride type (like as though he was supposed to turn out female but God screwed up in the end and made him male last minute). Only made ambiguous by his gender. My guts told me he is a male and there were some ambiguous elements to try and confuse us and make us think he is otherwise. Well, I suppose Kokoro eventually being officially male is supposed to be the surprise factor that shocks our main characters? You know what they say on how strange the truth is. But let me get this straight. Teko when she thought Kokoro as a girl, viewed her as a love rival for Pikari? But now that she knows Kokoro is a boy, she supports him to be Pikari’s future lover? Okay. Perhaps that is no rivalry in that way. It’s a win-win situation for everybody because Teko can have her lesbianism friendship with her while Kokoro will be able to get a straight and healthy relationship with Pikari. Once he reaches the legal age, that is.

Kodama and Kotori feel somewhat irrelevant here since they don’t have many episodes for themselves and only limited screen time. Like as though they are just introduced in case there is another season, then they can appear more. Hence having setup Kodama having some sisterly issues feels like this is going to be her ‘challenge to overcome’, which I predict it won’t be overly complicated (sisters get into some small quarrel, reconcile, best sisters ever in the world again) before she would becoming a diving member once more. But now that they are part of the diving club, we should hear from them often. I doubt that they will be replacing Ai and Makoto because even if they have graduated, they’ll still be around as alumnus and alumna.

It goes without saying that the main draw for me to return watching this series is the BGM music. Yes, those lovely and calming acoustic guitar pickings that could rival those in Aria The Animation. Although this season has its own brand new album, many that I hear sound like taken from the original series. But that’s just because maybe I wasn’t paying attention enough. But I do notice that there are much more variations to the Umi To Sora piece. It is like this has become the main theme of the series. Nevertheless, most of the BGM pieces are still calming and fun to listen.

Last season, Maaya Sakamoto who did the opening theme now sings the ending theme, Hello, Hello. It’s a cute and calming song and if the series itself doesn’t have more Aria x Ohime love, this is where you’ll get your cat love spam. I guess it is better than last season where Aria spends most of his time in this part of the animation chasing after Ohime. Now they’re like a couple. Minori Suzuki sings the opener, Crosswalk. It tries to have that same feel as the previous season’s opening theme, Million Clouds. It is also nice in its own right but I still prefer Million Clouds. With last season’s seiyuus maintained, new ones joining are Ai Yamato as Kokoro, Aya Suzaki as Kodama (Kaede in Ansatsu Kyoushitsu), Ai Kakuma as Kotori (Miyako in Imouto Sae Ireba Ii), Miyu Irino as Peter (Ritsu in Mob Psycho 100) and Hiroki Takahashi as Towano (Hisoka in Hunter x Hunter series).

The art and animation still remain consistent as last season. The background and sceneries are gorgeous to look at if you find the story and plot too boring to follow. Also, the characters still have that trademark Pac-man face for comical purposes. But I find Kodama’s Pac-man look to be a bit strange because it makes her look sleepy. Those half covered eyelids must be it. But the oddest looking character is Pikari’s grandpa who looks so cartoonish that as though he popped out from some cartoon. I thought he might be some sort of spirit and it boggles my mind how someone this big can move so much agile and quick in the water (possibly faster than dolphins too). Maybe he is big because of all the air and buoyancy inside his body? Nah! Also, we see Pikari’s grandma in her young hot youthful days. It makes you wonder how she became so hagged like as though she is another person now. Maybe all that scuba diving and being in the sun through the years caused her skin to be like that?! Remember people, take extra precautions when being exposed to the elements.

Overall, this sequel is pretty enjoyable if you love the first season despite the same recurring themes that some would find boring. Not really sure if this series would go on to have more sequels and spinoffs like Aria The Animation but you can count on me putting it on my watch list if they ever get produced. Especially those irresistible acoustic guitar picking BGMs. Time to add more of those pieces to my personal library. Still not into scuba diving for laidback leisure (if this what this anime subtly intends us to explore) but with those great pieces of music, it’s more than enough laidback time I need. More than enough toxic cleansing and healing I need before I head back into the pitch black and corrupted wild seas of anime. Hope this is enough ‘air’ to get me through till the next season arrives.

Space. The final frontier. The final place where men has yet to discover its potential. Too bad this isn’t sci-fi so space isn’t the final frontier. It’s South Pole AKA Antarctica. Yup, the giant inhospitable wasteland serves as the final frontier on our lonely little planet that mankind has yet to fully explore and understand. Despite being so ‘near’, it is in its way the furthest place from the universe. Hence, Sora Yori Mo Tooi Basho. That is why 4 high school girls are going to brave the sub-zero temperatures for a life changing journey of a lifetime. High school girls going to Antarctica? Is it a public park now? I guess it is going to sound cool when they tell their friends about the field trip they made. Oh, been to Kyoto? Boring. Tropical islands of Okinawa? Too warm and sunny. But have you been to South Pole? Now that’s a real field trip.

Episode 1
Mari Tamaki AKA Kimari has a list of to-do things she wants to accomplish in her life. Not much. But yet she has checked off none. So she thought of starting with the easiest on her list: Ditch school. Uhm. Okay? She even tells her best friend, Megumi Takahashi about it. Well, what can she do? It’s her choice. Heck, she even helps cover for her absence at school. But Megumi knows Kimari well. Because at the end, she chickens out. Unfounded fears of what might happen to her. A meteor falling. Whatever. You’re a good joker at least. So we see Kimari telling Megumi about how this bad habit came about. Every time she tries something, the thought of failure spooks her. Thus it is that part of herself she hates. One night while returning from the train station, she notices a girl dropped an envelope. It contains a million yen! Oh sh*t! Telling this to Megumi, Kimari notices the girl who dropped it was wearing their school uniform. They go around school looking for her. And then Kimari hears someone crying and regretting in the toilet. Sounds like her. You can’t imagine how grateful Shirase Kobuchizawa is when Kimari returns her money. Shirase explains what this is all about. Her mom, Takako wrote a book on Antarctica but went missing subsequently. Hence the money is to pay for her trip to South Pole and look for her. Many mock her for doing the impossible but she is going to prove it and shut them up. But can she earn and save that much money via part time since middle school? Okay. I believe her. This interests Kimari as she is now interested to go to Antarctica. She tells Shirase about her bad habit and this is why she wants to support her going to Antarctica. Although Shirase invites her to go, she needs to test her resilience. This weekend she will be checking out the boats and if she can come, she’ll believe she is serious (the ship named Shirase is at the nearby port for public exhibition before its departure). Of course Kimari starts out as optimistic and then her bad habit starts to kick in midway. Thankfully she doesn’t chicken out this time and meets up with Shirase to start her first ultimate adventure.

Episode 2
Shirase pinpoints the schedule and journey of Shirase. As the ship will be leaving soon and they are not, they will take a plane to Fremantle, Australia and meet up with it there before heading towards Antarctica. Since this is the first time in 3 years that the ship will take on civilian passengers, they can’t miss this boat. Kimari excitedly talks to Megumi about this but the latter has her reservations. It takes a huge amount of money as well as the dangers of the expedition (it has claimed lives before). So I guess the girls need more money and hence they chance upon this easy job. An ad that pays good money for high school girls just talking to boys. Hmm… Sounds too good to be true. But you won’t know if you don’t try. Kimari also works part time at the local convenience store. Her fellow colleague, Hinata Miyake knows all about Kimari and her plan to Antarctica. She overheard them the other day. She wants in. Does she have money? Got it. From her job. She still has to take time off school. Don’t worry. She doesn’t go to school! And she is the brainy kind too. Her dream is to ace everything and show up everyone who goofs off in high school and fails. Of course she plans to do something extraordinary this year before she takes her college entrance exams. Later Hinata reveals more to Kimari why she doesn’t go to school. She hates blending in with the crowd but seeing them together made her envious. The trio try to find the Antarctica expedition meet in the crowded streets of Kabukichou. Ironically Shirase is scared of meeting others. I don’t know what the girls are trying to do to ‘seduce’ the guys but when a couple of ladies, Kanae Maekawa and Yumiko Samejima spot them, Shirase recognizes them and tells her pals to run! And so it becomes a helter-skelter chase throughout the crowded streets. Wow. Those ladies could sure keep up even if the trio separate. In the end, the trio blunder and knock into each other. The ladies (Takako’s friends) hear out their plan to get a male member in their group so it would be easier for them to enter the expedition. Shirase flashes the cash and will give it to them if they can bring them along. But they reject her money although they invite them to come to Fremantle as they are going too. That should be good news but Shirase still thinks if she had more money they would have accepted her right on the dot? Hinata and Kimari didn’t like her negative vibe so they vote to a majority to dismiss her as the group leader and just head to Antarctica.

Episode 3
As part of the civilian expedition, a high school girl will also be tagging along as a reporter. She is Yuzuki Shiraishi and a famous child actress. Shirase has this idea to tag along with her but makes her friends call her agency because she is scared to talk to strangers? But don’t worry, Yuzuki is here! In short, Yuzuki wants Shirase to go in her place. Am I hearing this right? She really doesn’t want to go as she is sick of the cold (she’s from Hokkaido). While it might seem like a dream come true, it comes crashing down soon. Tamiko, Yuzuki’s mom and manager arrives and disagrees. Yuzuki has a job and she must do it. But what if they can do it in her place? Well, Shirase is a poor actor. Even though Hinata is naturally good, she doesn’t have the looks. Ouch. What about them combining? Bye. But they are left with a slim hope that if they can convince Yuzuki to go, they can tag along as her company. So the trio ‘stalk’ her outside the hotel she is currently staying. Then they go confront and try to convince her while she is doing her homework and revision at the nearby café since it offers free refills. Yuzuki knows mom put them up to this. So she explains as a child actress since 4 years old, she does not have any friends. Not a single one (she always had to leave for a job instead of joining them). This year she vowed to make one and hence the reason she doesn’t want to go. She doesn’t think they understand as they’re all best friends. They quickly dismiss that as they are all strangers and known each other for about a month. The only thing they have in common is the destination. Yuzuki feels better about it but the trio realize they forgot to convince her. So that night they hatch a plan to kidnap her from her hotel via window?! Flimsy ladder on a stormy night! They’re falling! Thankfully it’s just a dream. But the trio did come and get her. Normally through the front door. Yuzuki is so overcome with emotion that she starts crying. First friends, eh? They accompany her to the Polar Science Museum and check out the things that are to be expected for the expedition. Yuzuki couldn’t have felt happier in her life.

Episode 4
Shirase has all the paperwork done that will allow her to take time off from school for training and the trip. Kimari? Oh well, I guess she is being over paranoid trying to figure out if mom knows her intentions. Why does she have to pick a time when she is cutting vegetables? When she tells her the truth, it seems Kimari has used her stamp without her permission. Mom turns into a serial killer… Not even dad could save her because he saved himself. Thankfully Kimari didn’t die and is given the ultimatum to pass every test or else. She hopes Hinata would coach her but is told off she goes to school and this means allotted study time. If she can’t manage that, then she is useless! So true! The quartet are picked up by Yumiko for their training camp. This isolated woods would be a good practice simulation for what is to come. Inside the lodge, she introduces them to Gin Toudou who will be the captain for this expedition. She lays down a few basic ground rules like treating everyone equally regardless of anything. The girls practice to use compass and mark their routes. There is also the real practice of sleeping outside in a tent. Kimari can’t sleep and is noisy. So she asks if Shirase knows Gin. Takako and Gin were high school friends. Both went to Antarctica. Only Gin came back. End of conversation. Kimari wakes up before the break of dawn and sees Gin looking at the horizon. She asks about Takako. Strange, convicted and stubborn. She might not know her daughter well but she gets the vibe she is a splitting image of her. Kimari also explains her reason of wanting to go to Antarctica and not just somewhere. Although Shirase invited her, she decided it herself. She met others along the way who wants to go and she really wants to go with them too. Kimari wakes up her friends to see the sunrise. This motivates them further to go to Antarctica together.

Episode 5
There’s a school ceremony to tell Kimari and Shirase will be taking leave for Antarctica? The quartet practice reporting but Shirase is still as stiff. But she isn’t one if you insult her because she is willing to pick a fight. Kimari packs her stuffs so her room is in a mess. Besides, with the weight restrictions, it seems her sister is taking the liberty to throw out stuffs she shouldn’t need for this trip. Yeah, look how many tour guides and dictionaries she planned on bringing. While cleaning up, Kimari discovers Megumi’s video game console she borrowed and forgot to return. For 3 years. So she returns it and has some nostalgia playing the only game she could ever beat her. At the park, Megumi meets Kimari’s friends for the first time. When Megumi cautions them about bad rumours circulating, Shirase loses her cool and wants to get to the bottom of this. Hinata keeps her head cool that this won’t solve anything and that they don’t have solid proof they did not either. Besides, they are leaving tomorrow. They have a karaoke party to celebrate for tomorrow’s departure. Next morning as Kimari says goodbye to her family (dad is most emotional), outside waiting is Megumi. She came to break up their friendship. It is revealed she was the one who spread those bad rumours. In short with all the tearful drama, Megumi was jealous ever since Kimari decided to go to Antarctica. All the while, Megumi had always decided for her and this superiority made her feel belonged. She now realized that she was the one who was hanging on to things. Because without Kimari, Megumi would have nothing. So is it too late for Kimari to invite her to come to Antarctica? Well, it is Megumi’s first step into a world without Kimari so it won’t be wise to follow her. Kimari parts ways with her but rejects her break up. She meets up with her travelling companions at the airport.

Episode 6
The girls are now in Singapore. Their flight to Fremantle will be in 2 days. Wow. Haven’t been to Singapore for ages and I can’t recognize the place. Except for the Merlion still there. The girls go sightseeing and a little culture shock when the Japanese food in the menu isn’t the actual Japanese food when ordered. It says ramen but it’s not actually… Their first time tasting durian ice cream stinks… When Hinata asks Yuzu if she has her passport with her, Yuzu instantly can sniff out something is wrong and forces her to spill the beans. It seems Hinata has lost hers. She carried so much junk and not a passport in sight. You do know you cannot leave or return to Japan without it, right? Don’t worry. Google’s solution is to head to your embassy and request a replacement. The fastest is half a day. Too bad it is closed on Sunday. That’s tomorrow. Instantly Kimari could berate the government for being inefficient because she compares them to convenience store workers who work 365/24/7. Yeah… Welcome to reality. Although they can change their flight to a later date and still make it in time to Fremantle, Shirase is against this. Something about the strict rules of their expedition and she doesn’t want to leave that first expedition that they are running late. So Hinata has this idea the 3 of them should go without her. She’ll just get her replacement passport and head home. Next morning, Hinata’s alarm didn’t work. She wakes up only to see the rest has left without her. She catches up to them at the airport as Yuzu is trying to haggle to change their flight date but is unsuccessful. There are no openings for these tickets till next month since they got it cheap. Shirase tries to bribe the officer?! Will it work?! After all that friendship lecture, Shirase wants all 4 of them to go to Antarctica. In the end, they manage to change their tickets to the more expensive business class. Shirase then sees Hinata’s passport in her purse! Oh my. Flashback shows after they got down at the airport, Shirase wanted to tie her shoe laces and gave it to Shirase to hold. How could she have forgotten? With Shirase acting so nervous, Yuzu can sniff her out… Spill it. As punishment, the duo are made to eat the stinky durian. One each. Thank goodness I’m not part of this group…

Episode 7
Another TV reporting test run. Shirase still sucks… They board Penguin Maru as Kanae shows them their room and the few ropes to get around. Yeah, new things to learn. Better learn quick. Especially not losing your directions. Gin points out their room was once used by Takako so please take care of it. Shirase tries to find any clues left behind by her mom but none. With limited manpower and supplies, naturally the girls are worried if they could ever make it to Antarctica. They ask Kanae so she assures them they have taken a lot of measures and with the people on board determined to go, of course they’ll get there. After all, Antarctica is not going away from them! Didn’t think that was a good ice breaker… The girls aren’t convinced and feel she is hiding something. So they snoop around wearing masks? They find a panicky girl regretting coming on board. From what they hear, looks like her boyfriend ditched her and she came just to prove her love. And since he isn’t coming… Yeah… Also, some adults getting drunk. Suspicious… Sleeping in their bunkers, it seems under a bed there is glow in the dark paint making it look like the stars believed to be by Takako. Later Gin talks to Shirase how they started all this. Realizing there was no civilian station on Antarctica, they did all they could to make it a success including securing sponsors. Despite all the danger, they hope to find something worthwhile. Then the unfortunate happened. Sponsors withdrew and the next expedition was delayed till it was postponed indefinitely. Despite all that, they haven’t changed. She hoped to look at the same stars again. Many of them who went before are now back. Many don’t have anything to gain and some may even lose when they return. That’s the kind of ship this is. Kanae introduces the high school girls. Shirase is still nervous but she manages to get by and rally everyone’s motivation to head to Antarctica.

Episode 8
The girls are basking on the warm concrete of the deck. Soak them up because it’ll be freezing when they get to Antarctica. As the ship sets sail, they begin their interviewing. Shirase still sucks. At the kitchen, they are made to peel potatoes. Then it is time for exercising. Ironically they have been walking around all day and for so long, they get tired after one big round around the ship? Better work on the stamina and shape up. Don’t want to be a liability when you reach the world’s largest desert. At the rate they’re working the dumbbells, they might turn into Amazons by then. Shirase blames others for forgetting to do laundry when it was her whom the group decided on for this task. But the real challenge is here. Due to the constant swaying, the girls are seasick. It is just taking effort to hold it all in. They force themselves to eat the next meal for energy but everything went back out. Kanae ‘instils fear’ in them because they aren’t prepared for the worst that is to come. It seems they are entering the rough seas area in which the boat will be rocking from side to side like a roller coaster. This must be worse than a horror movie. At this point the girls are like the masters of throwing up. But the thought that everyone else is holding their ground and them being useless gives them a little motivation. They chose this so they should be prepared. Probably they’ve gone crazy with all the swaying so they decide to take a look outside. They are awed by the vast darkness and laugh in delirium when the salty waves splash all over them. Yup, they’ve gone mad. However the good news is that the next day they are all fine again. Like as though that was the ritual needed for some sort of immunity. As the weather is all clear, they finally see land. Or ice, rather. Antarctica ahead!

Episode 9
Toshio Zaizen suddenly confesses to Shirase that he loves her! Oh my. Did seasickness turn into love sickness? When they talk it seems he is in love with Gin and wanted to ask Shirase if she knows anything about her since her mom was close to her. So I guess he panicked. Unfortunately she doesn’t know much. But the girls would like to help him out although he cannot get involved. Under the guise of an interview, they try to find out her type of men. Too bad she won’t answer anything that is not expedition related. Shirase do eventually get to talk to Gin alone. She doesn’t hate her as mom always talked about Antarctica and she was well aware of the danger. Gin still has some regrets in making a decision to leave Takako behind. When Gin asks Shirase if this is what she really feels, she starts breaking down relating how she knew mom was never coming home. She kept telling herself every day that if she wants to change, she has to go to where mom is. A place further than the universe. The ship hits a fast moving ice. Instead of going around it, they use the ship’s weight to cut through. While so, more snippets of Takako always leaving Shirase to Gin whenever she leaves the house. Gin remembers the final moment when Takako went missing. Her final words over the transmitter was that she something so beautiful. I hope it wasn’t the gates of heaven. Gin starts crying. Right at the moment when Zaizen had his courage all summed up to confess. Hence he can’t and takes out his frustration while drinking with Yumiko. She tries to cheer him up by advising to try someone within his reach. Guess what? Now he loves her! Oh sh*t! Her plan backfired. When the ship finally lands, the girls take their first step on the continent. Shirase starts boasting how she has achieved her dream and take those to all who do not believe her. With the girls also supporting her on this, the entire crew is also influenced and yells the same. In your face, non-believers!

Episode 10
The girls arrive at the Syowa Station. Even though it is December and it is summer in South Pole, it is still damn cold. Kanae gives them a quick tour around the place and they’ll each have their own rooms this time. It is good for Yuzuki since Kimari sleep talks with her eyes open! As this is the first time Syowa Station has people staying in 3 years, there will be a lot of cleaning up to do. Don’t let that cute penguin distract you. Yuzuki receives word from Tamiko that she has been accepted by the drama audition that she took prior to this audition. This makes Yuzuki sad because she will be busier and the quartet won’t spend time together anymore. However they note they will still live separately and they are all friends. But this confuses Yuzuki because since when did they become friends? Weren’t they just strangers with a common goal? This causes her to have trust issues with them. Hence she comes up with a friendship contract that will have all of them remain friends once this is over. But Shirase believes it doesn’t mean a thing. She has been alone before and knows it. However Kimari is so touched that she starts crying. Yuzuki freaking out? So the rest try their best to explain about Kimari’s actions to her. This friendship and trust thingy is sure confusing. Hinata and Kimari try to do a Christmas show but all the drunk adults have passed out. Not sure what Kimari was doing stuck up the ceiling so she could just talk to Yuzuki? More talk about friendship thingy. The other friends then bust in to give her a surprise belated happy birthday cake. They were too seasick that time for that and thus Kimari suggested they all should celebrate it at Antarctica. I guess this means we’re all friends. I guess this also means it’s time for Yuzuki to cry her heart out. Even more when she messes up by blowing out the candles with her accidental sneeze. Not sure if this is inspiring because they think friendship is this one word. Uhm, isn’t friendship itself a single word? Ne?

Episode 11
Nobody can stop laughing at Kimari’s goggle tan lines. Reverse racoon? Even during the live stream, mom and sis laugh the moment they first see her. When it is Hinata’s turn, a few old friends show up. Instantly she shuts the camera and fakes injury. Shirase notices Hinata has been stressed since and sees her taking it all out via violently abusing the snow. Shirase wanted to talk to her about this but the circumstances wouldn’t. Hence there is an email in the public computer addressed to her. Shirase knows it is wrong but the temptation is too great. She takes a peak and is caught in the act. Hinata not pleased. So here is the backstory anyway. Hinata was part of the track and field club. Her club members tell her to go easy and lose out to the seniors since it is their last year. Hinata didn’t listen and she got selected. She then heard some of them badmouthing her. That was the last straw. She quitted. They tried to spread all sorts of rumours of her so she also quitted school altogether. Hence the reason she came to Antarctica is because there is nothing here. An empty place with no one to tie her down. As the girls carry on their work, Shirase lets Hinata know about her thoughts of it. She wouldn’t stand for anyone who treats her badly but yet she is smile. Hinata isn’t Shirase, you know. Hinata thanks her for her concern and the truth is, she is still scared. On another live stream, Hinata wonders if she should forgive them if it would make her feel better but the thought of knowing they would be relieved would disgust her. So when Hinata’s friends are online, Shirase hijacks and tells them to leave Hinata alone. They might think she has been sad ever since but the truth is she is having a lot of fun. Getting straight to the point, since they hurt her friend, they get to live with this. No halfway state business. Hinata so moved to tears. Perhaps the final taking out of the frustrations of the year as the quartet ring the makeshift bell made out of the drum can. Hope it doesn’t break.

Episode 12
Shirase still remembers she was in the middle of class when the teacher called her to go home. That feeling never ended. So when Kanae invites Shirase to head inland where her mom was last seen as part of their next expedition programme, she shocks everyone by wanting some time to decide. Her friends talk to her as she relates how eager she was to come here and did everything she could. But now that they are here, there is nowhere left to go. And if nothing changes, she is going to live the rest of her live feeling this way. The friends do not pressure her but give her some space to think. Shirase talks to Gin about her reason coming here. She has to accept the fact Takako is dead and came here latching onto the supposed dream she wanted her to come back here. But in the end, those dreams weren’t enough as motivation. It was the injustice of reality that made the impossible possible and allowed them to proceed. Of course Shirase eventually decides to join the team but still has this forlorn look on her face. Moving deeper inland, it gets colder and colder so much so you can use a banana as a hammer! They are awed with the sun pillar phenomenon before retiring into their snowcat. A blizzard hits that night and it reminds Gin of a very similar situation of how they lost Takako. She believes she left the main station after forgetting something and slipped. Despite she was right behind her and tied to a rope, it broke and the next thing she knew, she was gone. Next day it is clear as Shirase narrates a letter if she was to write to mom. She talks about having friends who are willing to go this far for her. They finally arrive at the site which is supposed to be an observatory site. It is still far from completion. After seeing Gin shed tears, Shirase’s friends get frantic to look for anything that Takako left behind. Anything. Proof she was here. Shirase remains sceptical but hey look. What’s this? A picture of mother and daughter together. Uhm, wait. Isn’t that a laptop too? After 3 years, it is still working in fine condition???!!! Wouldn’t the electronics just freeze? Apparently Shirase knows her mom’s email password after the second try. Guess what? It starts downloading (not really sure but is wifi available this deep?) all the emails Shirase sent to her. Oh my, there are over 1,000 unread emails!!! Cue for Shirase to cry and scream for mom. If that doesn’t move you to tears, perhaps her friends outside crying for her will. DAMN WHERE ARE THE TISSUES????!!!!!

Episode 13
The girls have got used to things so well that this could be their second home. Yeah, Shirase is such a killer at the mahjong table. Watch out, Saki. There might be a new kid in town… As the girls would soon have to leave, Kimari has this silly thought of continuing their stay. I understand she likes it here but the rest instantly shoot her down because they have families and school to think about. So on their last day, they play baseball. Nobody could take Gin’s pitching except Shirase. Because only Takako was the other one who ever did. Shirase then shocks everyone with her new look as she cuts her hair to shoulder length. A sign she has gotten over this Antarctica and mom issue? The morning comes for the high school girls to depart. The winter team is supposed to swap with them but since there is none, the adults are continuing their stay. Gin makes her speech about this successful experiment featuring high school girls before passing the mic to Shirase. Typical heartfelt speech that leaves everyone crying. Even Gin. Shirase passes her mom’s laptop to Gin. She doesn’t need it anymore. Takako would be mad if she didn’t stay for the winter. Oh, so mom’s spirit now resides in this laptop? That night, the girls get to see the beautiful aurora lights. Shirase receives a mail from her mom’s laptop. Actually Gin sent it after noticing a mail in the outbox. You mean now it only has wifi? What about when Shirase downloaded all those inbox messages? Did she not notice that single mail in the outbox? Anyway it states that the real aurora is ten thousand times better. How convenient and precise timing and setting. The girls return to Japan and part ways before returning to their normal life. Kimari texts Megumi that she is back but too bad the latter isn’t home. In fact she is away at the North Pole! NO WAY!!!

Have A N-Ice Day! Frozen Friends
I guess once you have experienced something so awesome, returning to your mundane everyday life seems like hell. I’m not saying the girls dread going back to society but I can feel that from all the promises they made during their fastest friendship building days, they are certainly ready for the next trip together. Well, if their schedule isn’t packed or conflicted. While many ordinary people are too busy to even bother the achievements of high school girls going to Antarctica (or the most give a 2 second wow, that’s cool line) and shrug it off as so-what-it-doesn’t-have-anything-to-do-with-me, not many could say they went to the freezing hell and came back alive and in one piece plus an even motivated spirit. I wonder if this is comparable to the other kind of hell that is known as the biannual Comiket, going and returning from there alive. Yeah, too many people have done that so it doesn’t seem so Antarctica cool.

Like they say, it isn’t the destination but the journey that is important. This is what this series is all about. Hence the main draw is not Antarctica but rather their journey together and the bond that they created in this short journey that has turned them into lifelong friends. From mere strangers with a common goal into inseparable BFFs. This is the beauty of this series. Despite at times when I thought it was going to be boring and lacklustre, the dynamic interaction between the main quartet sure proves interesting.

There are going to be lots of heartstrings tugging moments to move your heart as you see the girls bond closer each other while working towards their goal. Might not be the most tear jerking anime ever nor one that would normally needs tissues, but unless your heart is as cold or even more frozen than the depths of Antarctica, you will definitely be moved the moment Shirase finds her mom’s laptop despite I still find it silly it still works but the overall atmosphere was so moving that it made me forget this sin. Many times they drum up the drama and the feels close enough to make us cry. It is like they built up all that emotions welling up to this point that became the clincher to release the flood damns of tears. Damn they did it so well I would have gone full blown emotional if I was the weepy kind. Seriously.

It might seem like they are painting it look easy and even accessible for high school girls to jump on this dangerous expedition. I mean, you want to see old guys in place? Anyway we have seen them in harsh conditions and overcoming it (because power of friendship too) and with the supervision and guidance of veteran adults, it is not as impossible as we think. It might seem unrealistic that the girls are having lots of happy times while on the trip but I assure you that this is the correct attitude. Nobody is going to take you seriously if you keep on complaining and whining. Besides, the girls know very well what they are signing up for and hence getting grumpy at the point of no return is going to cause a lot of problems for everyone. Always keep a positive outlook.

As mentioned that the dynamic interactions between the main quartet is the main driving force of the series. All four of them are not without any problems aside from their character flaws that serves as the series’ comical moments (Shirase being forgetful and stiff in front of the camera while Kimari has weird sleeping habits). They have their own issues to deal with and are properly fleshed out during the course of this series. Like Kimari who has done nothing eventful in her life because she is a coward decides to do something big and for a person who has achieved nothing in life, that is commendable. Even Megumi didn’t want her to go because who else would she ‘show off’ to? But I guess in life, changes are inevitable. In order for Megumi to ‘evolve’ to the next stage of becoming her true friend, she have to come to terms and accept Kimari’s freedom. The will to let go. I mean, even when apart they can still be friends, right? Damn that girl pulled a fast one over Kimari because without anybody noticing, she’s now at the Arctic. So why doesn’t anybody talk about the North Pole? Penguins over polar bears… And also Santa never existed… Because of Kimari’s frank and honest nature, sometimes she feels like the comic relief character of the group after Hinata whose outgoing personality is just so outgoing.

Yuzuki is probably tired of being in the spotlight and just wants to have normal friends. Ironically the first friends she makes are while she is out of Japan. Even the cheerful Hinata has her own issues. While it might seem childish that she ran away from society, what would you have done in her shoes? Well, probably heading to Antarctica wouldn’t be on my top 100 list of things to do to escape from bullying. Perhaps the journey refreshed her in a lot of ways. Yeah, nothing like taking a long trip and taking your mind off things. Screw society. Antarctica has nothing and the best place to represent nothing.

Finally Shirase as the one who commenced this group trip has the biggest load of burden over her shoulders. It is one of the most traumatic ways to lose your mom and never having to say goodbye to her. Hence sometimes I feel this is one big trip to pay her last respects by visiting her ‘grave’. It is a long winded process for her to overcome and accept that mom is never coming home. It is her only chance of putting the rest the ghost of her mom’s disappearance and demise. Yeah, I came to funnily believe Takako’s soul is now in the laptop. Because otherwise what kind of ‘power’ do you think would have kept it in good running condition after 3 years of not in use? I know today’s technology allows wifi in Antarctica but I can’t help think it is cheaper to strap the modem on the penguins’ back. Haha!

Other supporting characters aren’t really prominent in the spotlight but they especially Kanae and Gin (also staying strong and trying to overcome and accept the death of her friend) do help support the main quartet in their stay. It was interesting and funny to see that girl who got the short end of the stick with her boyfriend leaving her on this trip alone. It was like the biggest stand up ever. One way ticket to Antarctica if you want to dump your girl (assuming it was but it isn’t in this case). So as not to see her lose everything, he had the heart to contact her in the end.

At the end of this journey, no doubt that Kimari wants to return to South Pole with her friends, it makes me wonder if this will be the only thing for the rest of her life she will be doing. Sure, she has been bitten by the South Pole bug but remember at first she has a list of to-do things she wants to accomplish in life. So is she going to devote the rest of her life not doing anything else but become a permanent explorer of team Antarctica? If so, what makes her think this would be life’s best experience (assuming she said this) if this is the only thing she has accomplished in her life? So if Kimari is going to stay true to her bucket list, I guess she’ll have to spend the rest of her life travelling to other parts of the world and experiencing different new cultures and the likes. Yeah, less time for Antarctica then. Well, at least she did something than nothing. But if she wants to forever stick to Antarctica is fine with me. Hence Kimari’s life will also be known as the Ice Age. Sorry, bad pun.

Art and drawing feel pretty normal and decent. The characters look simple enough and lacking detail. Also, the colouring hues feel a bit bland. Especially when you get to South Pole, everything is pure white and even from myself if I focus too much on the white ice and snow, I feel I might get some snow blindness! Okay, a bit exaggerated I admit. However the background and sceneries of the cities especially the one in Singapore look gorgeous enough. Even so, the backdrop and characters don’t clash and blend in together. I also want to note that one of the biggest exaggerations of this series is when the characters cry. Their tear drops are freaking big! I thought they were crying translucent pearls! It might be this series’ sort of trademark and exaggeration but I find it a bit weird that they really cry big teardrops. Animated by veteran Madhouse who brought to you One Punch Man, No Game No Life, Highschool Of The Dead, Ore Monogatari, Chihayafuru, Overlord, Black Lagoon and Death Note.

Voice acting, got to credit my absolute favourite Mamiko Noto first. Although sounding serious in her character role as Gin and nothing like the upbeat and fun type like Liszt in ClassicaLoid, it may be nothing special to others but she will always sound special to me! Cringe? More like me still fawning over her! Also recognizable is Yuka Iguchi and her lively voice makes it perfect as Hinata. Other many recognizable seiyuus include Kana Hanazawa as Shirase, Saori Hayami as Yuzuki, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka as Zaizen, Youko Hikasa as Kanae and Sayaka Ohara as Tamiko. Also recognizable is Kana Asumi’s cameo as that girl who keeps pining for her boyfriend who left her on this icy trip by herself. Gotta prove this freezing journey is not what breaks their relationship. Break the ice! Not the relationship! Oops. Went a bit off there.

Other casts include Inori Minase as Kimari (Rem in Re: Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu), Lynn as Yumiko (titular character in Fuuka), Ai Kayano as Takako (Inori in Guilty Crown) and Hisako Kanemoto as Megumi (Ika in Shinryaku! Ika Musume). The opening theme is The Girls Are Alright by Saya. An upbeat song that instils motivation and hope, enough for you to feel you want to root for the main quartet. The same can be said for the ending theme sung by the main quartet, Koko Kara Koko Kara.

On a trivial note, I keep wondering why despite the series is called and pronounced as Sora Yori Mo Tooi Basho (A Place Further Than The Sky) when its original kanji writing is Uchuu Yori Mo Tooi Basho (A Place Further Than The Universe) and this one is often referred to throughout the series. I am guessing what lies beyond the skies are the stars and technically the universe. So using double writing and meaning in Japanese is like Japanese being Japanese, huh? Well, like I said in my opening paragraph about space being the final frontier. When you’re at the southernmost point of Earth, it feels like you’re in space and on an alien planet, no? Or maybe the meaning is just simply interchangeable in this case.

Overall, despite in sub-zero temperatures, their friendship continues to burn and keep our hearts warm. Heck, they even melted it at one point. So is this one cool story then? This is one anime where they correctly use the power of friendship to drive its plot and characters. Even if you are not into this friendship drama thingy, this is still a worthy and entertaining watch. Sometimes it is good to take a break from a long journey and stop to smell the roses once in a while. Who knows the detour you might take and experience something even better? Who’d knew that going south was such a positive thing? This series really gives a whole new positive meaning about heading south. Things are sure looking up in this case.

Wait a minute. You mean the climbing isn’t through yet? Oh right. Somebody failed to conquer Mt Fuji in the second season. It has been almost 4 years ago since the second season aired and I thought that was the end of it. Apparently not. Yama No Susume: Omoide Present is a special OVA released back at the end of 2017 just to inform us that a third season will be gracing the airwaves in 2018. Time to pack those hiking and climbing gears once more. Mr Fuji, here we come again.

Summer: Kokona
It is the summer break for Kokona and her mom feels bad that she has to work and not bring her daughter somewhere. Luckily Kokona is used to this and understands. This is an excerpt of one of her solo walks during summer. On a bright summer morning, Kokona as usual heads off by herself to Honnou. Along the way, she reminisces the old times she spent here as a kid with her mom. She also sees Kaede being dragged and lectured by her friend to go study at the library. She has to if she knows what’s best if she wants to get into college. Good luck. Later she stumbles into a lost girl who got separated from her mom while she was following a stray cat. Brings back memories when she got lost too. Luckily she helps her find and reunite with her mom. Kokona notes she is never lonely because of all the past memories. Literally, it’s like she’s been everywhere. Why the angel or fairy getup when she was a kid? Later when Aoi and Hinata join her, Kokona tells them of a second Mt Tenran. They don’t believe her until they look it up and find how true it is. Yeah, she knows the place like the back of her hand. Back home, Kokona has made dinner as her mom returns. Kokona tells her of all the memories she remembered today. Good news as mom says she has the next weekend off and will be able to bring her somewhere.

Autumn: Hinata
Hinata hangs out at Aoi’s place. When Aoi’s mom calls her, Aoi warns her not to touch anything. Of course cheeky Hinata despite making that fake promise then looks through her stuffs and finds a weird acorn badly glued on a stock with the word ‘te’ on it. Aoi returns and Hinata barely manages to put everything back. Acting so suspicious… Then they go through their old photo album before Hinata shifted away. When Hinata goes home, she spots a dropped acorn. She feels nostalgic but couldn’t quite put her finger on it. She asks dad about it so he shows his own photo collection where Aoi and Hinata used to hang out together at a children’s park. He still keeps a gingko leaf because it was her first present to him. It would be bad if he didn’t treasure it. Deep in the night, Hinata then remembers. The day before her family moved, Aoi made a doll out of acorns while Hinata just glued one on a stick. The girls were emotional when they separated and gave each other that acorn memento. It wasn’t written as ‘te’ but ‘hi’. Such bad handwriting. Hinata fears she has lost it and turns her room upside down to find it. Nothing. She fears Aoi will hate her for losing something important hence it is obvious she is spacing out very often. Dad doesn’t know the problem but figures if she did something wrong, just go apologize! I guess after all that thinking, Hinata decides to do that. She is sorry she lost that acorn. Aoi doesn’t mind and suggests they go find acorns and make new ones. Hinata is surprised by her forgiveness but as they pick acorns, Hinata remembers when she returned and introduced herself, Aoi did not f*cking remember her at all! That’s worst! Oh Aoi, trying to change the subject?

Climb More, Worry Less
If this OVA reeks of all that moe friendship and nothing about the climbing, don’t be surprise it is. This is what I remember the series is mostly about. It is like the little warm up that this series need for viewers before they get into the main dish of climbing and hiking up mountains or hills. There’s nothing much I can say here since this OVA just mainly delves into the special memories of the characters in the series. Memories, the priceless treasures than mankind could have. As long as you have them, your friendship could go a long way. Well, I suppose it is forgivable if you forget once in a while. Okay, maybe not. At least not the most important aspects. That’s why it’s funny to see how life changes as we grow up. We made promises never to forget and will always remember and then as time passes, we forget all about it. Sorry if I sound a little philosophical about this. It was just an excuse to cover up my forgotten memories for this series. No big deal now that I have remembered (some of it). So let bygones be bygones and move on and trek forward!

Himouto! Umaru-chan R

March 16, 2018

Don’t really remember if this series was going to get a sequel. It wasn’t that long ago but I guess the original was popular enough so we get Himouto! Umaru-chan R as the second season. Ah yes. The beautiful and elegant sister who could do no wrong in the eyes of the public. She is the dream girl whom every guy would love to date and marry. Until you know her terrible true personality of being a spoilt brat behind closed doors. I salute to thee, big brother who has always put up and tolerated her selfish ways. Because now he is going to do all that again in this season. Hopefully, perhaps she’ll grow and mature in some ways instead of annoying us.

Episode 1
Taihei will be away for work since the deadline is near. This means Umaru is going to stay up and do whatever she wishes! Play all the games she wants, eat all the junk food she wants and certainly watch all the late night anime she wants. This is the life. Then she falls asleep and the next thing she knows, it is tomorrow’s night! OMG! She slept through 16 hours?! So when Taihei returns that night, Umaru couldn’t be glad to welcome him back. Umaru is forced to voluntarily help Taihei and Ebina pull weeds around their apartment. Because what would others think if she starts getting lazy… At first she finds it fun pulling them out but when she almost hurts herself, she starts turning into a cry-baby and threatens to call it quits. However seeing Ebina carrying on, Umaru sucks it up and continues helping her. A class football match is coming up and since UMR pulls off an accidental skill, Sylphinford wants her to teach her. UMR thought of doing so if this means she can talk to her easily. And after that ‘world class’ training, on match day it seems they scrapped the class match thingy and just randomly put girls in one team. This means it will be Umaru’s side (containing a hell lot of never-seen-before weirdoes like as though this is some shonen anime) against Sylphinford’s side. You bet she is powered up with her training. From what I see, it is basically one (wo)man team Sylphinford against Umaru and her weirdoes. The only highlight is how the ball bounces off Ebina’s boobs for an amazing own goal. In the end, Umaru’s team fought back for a 3-2 victory. Umaru thought Sylphinford was saddened by the loss after putting so much effort but seeing how her teammates are praising her, there’s nothing to worry about. Then there’s the volleyball tournament coming soon… Oh no… Umaru thought an anime about a friendship being struck just because they walk home together is crap. But in reality, looks like she yearns for that. While talking to Ebina, she sees the ‘stalkers’ following behind. Umaru invites them to walk home together and a beautiful friendship begins.

Episode 2
Alex and Bomber arrive at Taihei’s place for dinner. This is the first time Umaru sees Alex and has this strange familiar feeling (he is Sylphinford’s brother) especially when he starts to like anime. Soon she deduces he might be her rival’s brother but in the end, the power of anime has them become good friends. Taihei and Bomber discuss about Alex being hired in the company in the first place and they’re unsure. Could it be he is a spy? He sounds like he is making a suspicious call about making contact with Umaru but is promptly hung up. Umaru uses the ear pick and doesn’t put it away so Taihei accidentally steps on it. Though he plans to buy it later, he didn’t count of Umaru’s ear itching soon after. It’s hell when she can’t scratch it. Eventually Bomber helps buy many types of ear pick much to Umaru’s relief. The best ear pick is always when someone does it for you. It reminds Taihei how mom used to do it for him. Is Bomber kidding when he wants that service from Taihei? No way! Umaru hears strange rumours that her dad is German and Taihei is a famous actor. When Sylphinford invites her to her place, Umaru sees the anime posters sticking out all over the place like a sore thumb in this very traditional Japanese house. But underneath this spooky basement is a well-respected library. It seems Sylphinford brought her here to study for their tests. It is then Umaru realizes the people got mixed up the rumours of Sylphinford’s heritage with hers. Taihei teaches Umaru how to clean, especially putting things away nicely. Those that can’t? Throw it away! Then she threatens to throw away this cleaning motivational book in which he is reading. Okay, she can keep some things. But because Umaru has a habit of not putting CDs back in its original case, Taihei has a hard time doing so and allows her to leave things messy. Umaru and her friends go watch a movie. In this Detective Conan spoof, Sylphinford is fast asleep and Ebina is embarrassed her stomach would growl but thankfully the loud noise of the movie covered it up.

Episode 3
Kirie’s sanctuary at Umaru’s place is threatened now that Alex is a frequent visitor. Plus, their anime conversations are so deep that Kirie is lost. Alex brings a new dating simulation to play. At an important crossroad, Kirie uses her own experience for the decision. Alex the so called expert disagrees. In the end, Kirie’s decision turns out right, sending the anime master into despair. Taihei notices Umaru has been spending hours on a new game just to get a rare item. Not only that, he notices others around him doing the same. If you can’t beat them, join them? Taihei buys the game and plays with her. However he only restricts it to an hour a day. Responsibilities, you know. This is his way of showing her that the game can be enjoyed this way. When she finally gets the rare item, a sequel is announced. Long nights are here to stay… Bomber tells Umaru how Taihei is once nicknamed a demon because of his top scores at school. Exaggerated but not totally a lie. When they try to steal taste his cooking, Taihei becomes mad like a demon that he actually looks scary! It causes Umaru to cry! They too realize they are in the wrong because they could have done something dangerous. Kirie’s join turns into disappointment once more. Yup, Alex is here. It seems Alex has presents for them. Yes, even you Kirie. But an erotic figurine? Kirie takes it and leaves, contemplating of throwing it away. But when she remembers how her strict family doesn’t celebrate Christmas and she never receives presents for her birthday, I guess she’ll be keeping it. After all, Umaru praised her for getting a present so it isn’t all that bad. After watching that McDonald spoof ad (more like a fake Pennywise!), Umaru now wants to eat hamburgers. So she and her friends go down there to order a hamburger combo. Oh yeah! I’m lovin’ it! Umaru notices everyone around is enjoying their burger. She used to enjoy it too but does it alone. So it’s more fun eating with others, eh? She notices Ebina ordering tons of them though she says it is for later. But for now, let’s enjoy the warmth and tender juiciness of their burger before them.

Episode 4
Taihei and the guys attend an anime concert while Umaru and her friends hang out in town. Sylphinford then invites them to a Christmas dinner at her home. There is an extra place so Umaru thought it is for Alex but it turns out to be for UMR! Uh oh. Will the secret be out today? It might be somewhat exaggerated that Sylphinford starts singing praises of her friendship with UMR but everyone knows whoever this person is, is a good person. Unfortunately, UMR didn’t turn up so after everyone leaves, Umaru decides to go back to do something. This leaves Ebina alone to walk home. It won’t be for much longer as Taihei accompanies her. But this risks them of being called a couple by a kid. When Sylphinford was young and first met Santa in her home, she wanted a wish: To have Japanese friends! Santa was so confused! She talked to Alex about it and learnt that he is going to Japan to study. It made her sad since they have always been together. Not long, she soon found some company in video games. Sylphinford wakes up from this dream and guess who is at the doorstep? UMR in Santa outfit. Couldn’t be happier. On New Year’s Day, nothing wakes Umaru up more than New Year money! So after getting an envelope from Taihei, she notices another envelope. She thinks he meant to give her 2 and takes it. Then the moment of truth. He is supposed to give it to Ebina. Oh sh*t. That guilt look is all over your face, Umaru. Knowing better, she returns it. Umaru starts realizing that Taihei has always been good to her while she has been a dick to him. Yeah, took you long enough. Not wanting others to think she is always pushing him around, she starts treating him nicely the first thing he gets home from work. However he has ‘bad news’. He has been chosen to go on a business trip and he will be away for quite a while. Aww, you don’t know what you’ve lost till you lose it. Sad Umaru cries as she cannot imagine being without her dear brother for months or years. Then it turns out it will be only for 2 weeks. Disappointed? Mad? She shows her repulsion by telling him to get out of here and stay away for 2 weeks!

Episode 5
Taihei packs his bags for the trip. He gives Umaru 10,000 Yen as allowance but when Bomber comments that isn’t enough, he doubles that amount. Umaru so happy! However when she hears the business trip to Hanamatsu is famous for its eels, she throws a tantrum and insists of coming along. Taihei and the guys take a trip there. They wonder why Kanau is coming along since she has got nothing to do with it although she planned the trip. It’s written all over her face so we can guess why. To Taihei’s dismay, Umaru actually tags along! In fear of getting his bonus cut, he doesn’t introduce her and has her sit somewhere else. Upon arrival, Kanau realizes she messed up the time. The meeting is supposed to be 8pm and not 8am. This means they’re free to do their own stuffs, right? I’m sure Kanau misinterpreted Taihei’s words about looking for the future because there’s a bridal ad nearby so to speak… Taihei and Umaru do some sightseeing. This is when Umaru asks about Kanau. Don’t worry. She is her boss and the CEO’s daughter. Not dating or anything. Yet. After Umaru has her delicious eel meal, she goes home. Taihei and the guys are supposed to help a restaurant with their customer data but they end up being the chef’s assistants? The chef is sure strict. He can even tell Taihei that he has a very spoilt sister from the way he prepares the food! Then they learn he is the older brother of Ebina, Kouichirou. Taihei remembers Ebina telling him there was a particular restaurant she was looking for that her brother was working in. He left home for Tokyo 10 years ago and never heard of him since. She hopes he is doing well. The trip ends with Taihei feeling good but not Kanau. Nothing she wanted (with Taihei) was done. When Taihei returns home, the place is in a mess! Time to blow his top. All that goodness from the trip out the window. Of course he wastes no time in restoring the place back to normal. Taihei and Umaru go to give Ebina an eel foodstuff souvenir. The same for Sylphinford but she has a feeling she has seen them recently. Yeah, Alex brought back a few boxes of them. A few days later, Umaru suddenly breaks down and cries. What gives?! She starts bawling how lonely she was while he was gone. Time for some big brother comfort.

Episode 6
Kirie won third place at a prefectural swimming tournament. Her classmates praise her but she keeps her guard up. Later as Kirie shows her certificate to Umaru, accidentally a storybook Kirie wrote using Umaru as the main character drops out. Fearing this is insulting, on the contrary, Umaru is interested to read it despite Kirie very much embarrassed about it. Sylphinford wears a kimono to school. Though it is a few days late past Hinamatsuri. As Umaru and the rest wore kimonos last year, Sylphinford feels the need for all of them to wear and take pictures of it. This time at her home. Meet her young Japanese mom. And since she is some kimono champion, the kimono that she puts on them must be perfect! Because of that, they do lovely and beautiful. They enjoy themselves with some refreshments. Kirie still believes her art is not there and wants to sketch Umaru. But as Umaru is conscious, Kirie will use her special skill of removing her presence to observe Umaru in her ‘natural habitat’. After a few sketches, Kirie feels something is missing. Till Taihei returns, she puts all her tools away in a flash. It is when Kirie realizes Umaru’s biggest smile is when she is around Taihei. Kirie then goes to shop for art tools but Taihei and Ebina stumble into her. She tries to hide them and Taihei asking some questions makes her feel uncomfortable. He then realizes Ebina was trying to be considerate and cover for her. He prompts Ebina as a kind person and this makes her fluster. Now Ebina is too conscious being around Taihei. Umaru is complaining it was so hot last night and couldn’t sleep. She bugs him to use the air-cond but he dismisses of using it so early. Something about the body will fail to regulate temperature if grown too dependent on it. Huh? I think I’ll buy the high cost reason. Eventually he got a stand fan from Bomber to cool things down. Umaru sees him lying in an awkward position near the glass door. Wow. Look at all the stars! Taihei sure knows his stuffs as he points out all the constellations in the sky. Too bad Umaru is already fast asleep. I don’t think he was that boring… Next morning, it looks like nobody got a good night’s sleep. What’s the problem this time? Mosquito bites.

Episode 7
Kirie thinks it is going to be a fine day today. At least this is what her horoscope fortune says. Although she gets to go to the amusement park with Umaru and co, ‘bad luck’ starts happening to her like tripping on her shoe lace, not tall enough to ride certain rides and her hairband snaps causing her to scream (more like opera singing). Umaru takes her to ride the Ferris Wheel as Kirie laments she is such a boring girl that Umaru will never invite her out again. But Umaru puts on a big smile and says she had fun. It raises Kirie’s spirits as they go ride the next ride. Well, with the rest of the friends. And Ebina’s boobs are constantly in Kirie’s face… Thank physics and momentum… Umaru goes to receive an award for being the top of her academic grade. Also receiving this award is a loli named Hikari Kongou but she is from the special advanced placement class. She feels she has seen her somewhere before. Snippets hint to us that Taihei taught her about the stars. Umaru asks Alex if he ever feels lonely and wants to go back to Germany and be with his German friends. He reveals he had none as he spent his time watching anime in his room. Until a ‘saviour’ suggested he go study at a Japanese high school. He is grateful for that because he made lots of Japanese friends and had lots of great time with them. After Alex leaves, he gets a call from Kanau. He quickly rushes to her place after hearing Hikari’s award and feels the need to celebrate it by watching the entire anime Blu-ray collection? No thanks. Hikari will pass. It is revealed that Kanau is his ‘saviour’. 10 years ago at Akita when Ebina was suffering from heatstroke, Kouichirou assured her she will not die and cooked her a great meal. That was the last she saw of him. By the time she recovered, he was gone. Though she knew where he went, she never understood why he left (for a job). So when Ebina moved into this apartment, meeting and interacting with Taihei made her nervous because he reminded him of her kind brother. Although she still flusters around him and has that same fuzzy feeling when she had a heatstroke, this one isn’t scary but a happy kind of fuzzy.

Episode 8
The horror! Kirie’s parents will be away and she will be left alone with Bomber! So seeks for permission to stay with Umaru in which Taihei agrees. So as not to leave that afro guy alone, Taihei will stay there in Kirie’s place. Kirie and Umaru have a great time together. It brought back some old memories where Kirie used to love Bomber very much. But at Bomber’s place, that drunk guy is crying and complaining to Taihei how Kirie now doesn’t love him. Tough times… After reading a romantic comedy manga and Umaru’s advice to believe what she wants to, Kirie decides that she is going to support Ebina. So by asking her straight up she is in love with Taihei? Oh my. What can Ebina say? That is why she is going to discuss that with her and shall root for their love. Yup, this is awkward. With Umaru spending too much time indoors, Taihei decides to get her outside and this fireworks festival is the perfect excuse. She agrees to come but calls her other friends too. Sylphinford has a makeover for all of them in traditional kimonos before they hit the festival grounds. It was a fine outing. In school, Sylphinford and Kirie describe a kind person Taihei is but of course their love is not of the romantic kind. Still, Ebina is dead shock. When Umaru goes home and thinks she can ‘scare’ Taihei from behind. However Hikari usurps her and hugs him, calling Taihei her onii-chan. He doesn’t recognize her as Hikari snarls at Umaru. Taihei has to be the kind guy by inviting her in (thinking she is Umaru’s friend). There is a ‘standoff’ between the girls as Umaru thinks Hikari knows about her secret lazy identity when she was actually talking about herself. Taihei finally remembers who Hikari is. She is Kanau’s little sister. Umaru is not impressed as she still calls Taihei her onii-chan. Hikari leaves but will come back another time. One last snarl at Umaru… Umaru questions Taihei about things like why Hikari calls him so but it’s been so long he can’t remember.

Episode 9
Bomber gives Taihei his camera since he has a new one. Umaru notices old photos in it so Taihei takes it out as not to be rude. Then they take many photos of each other. Apparently this is Bomber’s ‘gift’ to Taihei as he wants him to take pictures of Umaru now as she will not be the way she is forever. When the usual arcade is closed, Sylphinford suggests heading to an old department store. It’s quite a nice but quiet place and it soon becomes their hangout. Sylphinford is quite sentimental hanging out. Umaru doesn’t understand why until the place is closed down and demolished. Hence Umaru suggests to her friends to hang out at an amusement park the next time. Ebina visits to cook and join them for dinner. Apparently this is part of Kirie’s plan to support Ebina to get Taihei. So that way is via cooking? Oh well, a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Being this close to him makes her very conscious. Umaru tries to help out to hide the fact she cannot cook but blunders. So much so a huge fire scares Ebina and Taihei had to catch her. Umaru is sorry and reveals she cannot cook but Ebina can’t hear since her mind is going all fuzzy with Taihei holding on to her. Umaru is not amused when Taihei brings Hikari back for dinner. Coincidence? She thinks not. Time for a showdown… They compete among each other to make pancakes. Fail! Ultimately it is Taihei who makes the best pancakes. However he is eating their failed creations because they said they were making for him. The girls feel bad as Hikari apologizes for lying that she met him by coincidence when it is in fact intentional. Umaru returns the award she left behind the last time but soon she gets mad because nobody praises her for getting that same award too. Umaru plays with her hamsters but gets lectured by Taihei for treating them as toys. He warns her of the stress little animals can die from. For the next few days, Umaru doesn’t take them out until one night Taihei works late. But it might be the hamsters that are considerate towards Umaru because they notice her feeling the blues that her big brother is not around so they play with her. When Taihei comes back, he scolds Umaru for playing with his hamsters. Yeah, they look like having fun…

Episode 10
Once again, UMR ‘bankrupts’ the video arcade’s vending machine prizes. Sylphinford is impressed as usual and invites her to her home. UMR learns she has the same feasting habit on snacks while watching anime. When Sylphinford is interested to play this Pokee game (thinking it is a tradition of Japan), UMR raises her voice to protest because it’s a game where 2 people eat 1 end of the stick until it leads up to a kiss. She apologizes and they go watch an anime. So happens that anime has the characters play Pokee. Sylphinford gets embarrassed and understands what she meant. Hikari visits again one night but Umaru has caught her with her pants down because she left her home without telling Kanau. Hikari is obviously panicking as Umaru tries to hint to Taihei to let Kanau know. However Umaru knows what it is like to eat alone so she allows Hikari to finish dinner with them before reluctantly giving Taihei the green light to allow her to visit once in a while. When Hikari gets home, she gets scolded by Kanau as she knew she snuck out of the house knowing she would be working late today. Sylphinford talks to UMR she was in Japan many years as a kid before. She fears the place she last visited has changed a lot. But UMR brings her there and surprisingly it has not changed a bit. This also prompts sad memories because it was the last place she visited before returning to Germany and will not see Alex anymore. They end up having a boat ride as this was what she did with Alex. Ebina is nervous should would fail her tests. Sylphinford suggests a study group at her library. Ebina claims she is weak in all subjects but it turns out she does pretty well in them. Umaru believes she has performance anxiety. They suggests way to allay her anxiety but it only made it worse. Ebina remembers the first time she transferred to Tokyo from Akita. She felt like a ‘foreigner’. She wanted to talk to Kirie but heard nasty rumours about her. She tried Sylphinford and because she was the first one to speak to her, she took Ebina’s words as a challenge. When Umaru comes by, Sylphinford throws another challenge to her. Looking back, Ebina wondered if they could be friends and now they are. She starts laughing and feels better. She has no troubles acing her tests and hopes to continue hanging out with her friends forever. Though, she still feels anxiety when Sylphinford offers any sort of challenge.

Episode 11
Bomber couldn’t find Kirie so when he visits Taihei’s place, he finds her there. He then discovers she stole his cream puffs to share it with Umaru. He doesn’t get mad at her but is glad she has a place to hang out instead of being alone at home. Just when the siblings look like they reconciled, it’s bad blood between them again when they discover they each call Umaru by a different nickname. Umaru then makes peace with both of them over a cola. Taihei visits the bookstore to get Umaru some book. He sees Kirie there but she panics and runs away. Because it is raining outside, she cannot get far. She tells him about her dream to write about Umaru and was doing research. She has low self-confidence of her dream but Taihei believes it is a great one because unlike him who was just studying all his time. Umaru comes to pick him back home but on the way he realizes he forgot to buy her book. Kirie’s next plan to hook up Ebina with Taihei takes them to the ice skating ring. Only one problem: Taihei doesn’t know how to skate and hence can’t teach her. Umaru and Sylphinford are naturals but Ebina is just totally a clumsy noob. Though Ebina is happy to hang out like this, Kirie feels disappointed the goal wasn’t reached. Hikari hangs out at Taihei’s place for dinner again. After that they look at the stars outside and this prompts Taihei to remember he was the one who taught her the constellations. Flashback shows Hikari was always alone and Kanau always scolding her for eating only bread. Who is she to say because… One day she brings Taihei home so she could give him some recipe book. Hikari could tell Kanau likes him and pesters Taihei to stay so that Kanau could cook for him. Thing is, Kanau can’t cook! So as she stares at the cookbook for hours, while the rest wait, Taihei teaches Hikari about the stars. Now Hikari hugs him as thanks for remembering her. I wonder how long Umaru can tolerate this. She would have told her off had she not see the tears in her eyes. Both girls clinging onto him hard and he can’t move. Don’t know who gave up first but eventually when Hikari goes home, Umaru sheepishly says see you soon.

Episode 12
It’s a bit cold so Sylphinford has the girls cuddle up together like an old children’s game. In public. Thankfully the warmth isn’t from the embarrassment. Umaru wants pizza so Taihei looks fired up to make it. Bomber and Alex are invited to join in and to Umaru’s horror, she learns they are making okonomiyaki instead. Technically, Japanese pizza. The guys are in a dilemma what to include it as filling. Up to you Umaru. Mix everything! It turns out delicious thankfully. Umaru bugs Taihei to buy some very expensive special limited edition game she already has for her Christmas gift. He doesn’t say anything so she assumes he will buy it. Too bad he has to work on Christmas so she’ll have to hang out with Ebina. Umaru panics when she asks what present she will give Taihei. Selfish girl never thought of that, eh? So the duo go to shop for presents. Ebina gets Umaru a hamster cap. Then they decide to wait for Taihei to show up here after work and ‘ambush’ him. Boy, is he surprised. They hand them their presents and he asks what they would like. Umaru reminds him about the game… Kanau narrates how Hikari have been acting strange lately ever since she knew Taihei. Kanau also got some school achievement award like Taihei and was fantasizing her usual. This made Hikari think she would be praised if she also got such award. She managed to do so and despite Kanau praising her, she wants to be praised by Taihei. Kanau is in a bind because she plans to invite Taihei over to dinner as her present for Hikari. She can’t. She thought of spending Christmas alone with Hikari but Hikari knows what she has been doing for the past Christmas. Watching rented videos alone before going to bed. Sad! Sylphinford invites her friends to her home to celebrate New Year. In their kimono they play traditional badminton (they call it tennis?) as well as other games. It was a swell time. After Umaru gets her New Year’s money from the guys, this year she decides not to give into her greed and save them. It might seem silly she exchanged them for all small coins but this way it is hard to spend too much at once. Uhm, you mean she has one coin left in the piggy bank? She’s hinting he could help contribute some… Then it hit her all her money is gone! Taihei isn’t going to help her this time but seeing how she is sad she can’t make good her promise to do something together, he helps donate a small sum. Umaru then lectures about how such small value isn’t much these days and hopes he could increase the amount. Why you ungrateful brat! Is sorry too late?

Hamsters Of The Same Fur Flock Together
Another year, another season. Not too sure if they would surprise me with another season seeing this series is popular enough in Japan so don’t count that out yet. Basically if you have watched the first season, this sequel feels very much at home with lots of things staying mostly the same with a few new and nice little developments but nothing much that would overhaul and change the entirety of the series. Umaru will always be the Umaru we have started to know her from the beginning and looks like she will continue to remain that way until at least she graduates high school. Don’t fix something that is not broken?

Just like the last season, the episodes feel like standalone fillers and each episode is divided into skits that may or may not be related to whatever that theme was for that episode. Hence hot really much of a plot to being with in the first season so what is the point of having one right now? So if you are watching this sequel without watching the first, you won’t lose much. But highly recommended to watch the first season as it sets up the characters and their relationship. This season expands that albeit a little. Of course we have a few new discoveries and introductions like Ebina’s brother, Kanau’s little sister and that Alex and Sylphinford are blood related.

So speaking of that, basically if you have watched the first season, you will see that this season enhances the friendship between Umaru, Sylphinford, Ebina and Kirie. It looks like there is still a long way before their relationship would hit the BFF type but they are making enough strides to head that direction. After all, the quartet each has their own quirky personality and even Umaru herself isn’t spared. She might be a genius and elegant lady in public but hides another personality whom many would never know it is the same person because of her extremely good ‘transformation’ skill of turning into that chibi character. In this group of weirdoes, we also have the overzealous and hyped Sylphinford (~desu wa!) who looks more like Umaru’s friend than her rival now, the shy and panicky Ebina and the socially awkward Kirie who is now somewhat Ebina’s relationship manager. So odd no wonder they stick together because everyone else in their school are so normal.

Interestingly, Umaru is much less in her spoilt tantrum throwing brat. I don’t even remember if I have seen her in this state this season. Even if it was in the beginning, it was mostly forgotten. Because this season sees Umaru slowly converting into one who has learnt to appreciate Taihei in his absence. Sure, Umaru is still basically the same slackster we all know and generally she still is. Even last season, Umaru too wasn’t as bad and annoying as we thought she would be (still irritating nevertheless) but here it is like as though she somewhat has matured a bit. It is just hard to imagine Umaru going into her chibi mode and start screaming her head off at this point. Perhaps with Kirie and Hikari hanging out more often, there is not much personal time for herself or even Taihei who is required to work late more often. So at least in this aspect, I believe Umaru has grown up a little and learnt to appreciate the sacrifices of Taihei. The thought that one day they can no longer be like this is a scary one. Better value what you have now and count your blessings if you know what is good for you. Because now it feels the more annoying one is Kirie hating Bomber. At might look like the series’ running joke but after a while, it just feels annoying because Bomber is trying to be the nice big brother (he still has lots of areas to improve, though) but it’s like the moment she sees him, he is public enemy number one and does not hesitate to beat him up. Like, what’s the problem, girl?

Hats off to Taihei for being the most patient and understanding brother of all time. One of those in running for the Best Big Brother Award of the year. Often siblings hate each other as seen between Kirie and Bomber which is a very common occurrence everywhere. Therefore Taihei’s patience and kindness sometimes feel wasted on Umaru for viewers who don’t know about them. After all, Umaru is his only sister and family member around and it won’t do him or Umaru any good if he goes overboard. The occasional getting mad at her is okay (because it is also mainly her fault) but it won’t go so far as to physically abuse her or control her life. Umaru is already a grown teenager and she should be able to decide by herself.

This season introduces Hikari as a new character. Nothing really much about her except now that she has become Umaru’s rival for Taihei. Another reason why she should appreciate her brother more often. Because if you don’t, some genius loli is going take him away. Hikari’s debut also gives Kanau more reason to appear albeit still very much less. With the revelation and confirmation of Alex being Sylphinford’s big brother, it opens up some heart-warming stories and flashback between them and how they come to Japan and love its culture. Heh. Which foreigner in anime doesn’t love Japan’s culture? Even Ebina has her own but that is not as focused as those aforementioned. But it is good to know that she too has some family matters. Now all that is left is to know how Kirie came to hate Bomber so much while growing up because we have seen they were so close and cute together as kids. Eventually fate has all these characters related to some way or another.

This series could potentially turn into a harem series but I highly doubt that because many of the girls seem to have a thing for Taihei. Like Kanau who is still having nervous feet around him but she is too slow in doing anything that would make an impact. Is it a good thing that Taihei is dense? Ebina is the same but I also doubt under the guidance of Kirie there would be progress. There is a chance Kirie would also fall for Taihei since she is helping Ebina and with him being so kind to her, it is not impossible although the chances are remote. Of course there is Umaru for his sisterly love and now Hikari for some loli love. Man, this guy is sure popular. Now, how to fit Sylphinford (~zushaa!) into this equation…

Last season I remember there were a few trivia from the otaku culture to spot. I am not sure about this season because I don’t remember seeing any. Maybe that took a backseat in exchange for the character development. Art and animation remain the same with Sylphinford (~shupaan!) still looking the weirdest because of those petals (or was it stars again) in her eyes. Hikari can join that list of looking weird too. In her chibi mode, her eyes really look weird. I don’t know. It feels like as though she might turn into a crazy killer… Also, Hikari’s general design of having white hair and bushy eyebrows make her look some sort of anomaly, like as though she was some specimen who escaped her experimental tube. Do geniuses look like this? Okay, Albert Einstein… Hikari looks so different that you won’t even know she is related to Kanau.

This season’s opener might not be spamming that U-M-R line and make you go crazy, but Nimensei Ura Omote Life by Aimi Tanaka (voice of Umaru) still retains its spunky liveliness. The draw this time is the ending theme, Umarun Taison by Sisters (Umaru, Ebina, Kirie and Sylphinford). Despite all the fast paced techno frenzy effects, this feels like one big odd callisthenic exercise song. Even though seeing the girls in their chibi form doing those cute callisthenic moves, I figure that I shouldn’t follow them because I realized how silly I looked. The girls are alright because they are cute to begin with… Puura, puraa, puura, puraa, puura, puraa… Okay, swing your hands like a pendulum now… Old casts retained while the new ones added are Inori Minase as Hikari (Hestia in DanMachi) and Nobuhiko Okamoto as Kouichirou (Bakugou in Boku No Hero Academia).

Overall, this season feels a bit better than the previous because Umaru doesn’t go into her spoilt brat mode and the characters are more developed this time. It still maintains its own brand of quirkiness and cuteness altogether and hence enjoyable in its own right. But just like everything else, this will all soon come to pass and this would end up as just a phase in life and only remembered in memories. We can only take so much of the childish shenanigans and all the glittering-cum-energetic ~shupaaaaaaatz and find it cute and funny before it turns into something irritating. We all have to grow up one day and change. Okay, maybe some of us don’t. Ugh… Too lazy to change…

Senki Zesshou Symphogear AXZ

February 17, 2018

Wow. There’s still more? So much more because not only Senki Zesshou Symphogear AXZ is the series’ fourth season, they also announced the fifth season at the same time! What a way to really douse speculations if there would be more seasons. But I’ll cross the bridge once I get there. For now, this fourth season… Ah shucks. I can’t remember much of the storyline anymore. I was mainly confused in past editions so I now I’m going to be even more. I know I mustn’t give up like Hibiki. Maybe at the end of it all there will be hope for me to understand everything. Or not.

Episode 1
Hibiki still slacks in doing her homework. But is this considered saved by the bell because she is being whisked away for a mission? She heads over to a South American nation to join Tsubasa and Chris to take out a dictator’s military arsenal. No matter what you’re shooting at the girls, you’ll never best their singing and firepower. Not even this giant ship he is piloting in the sky. Nothing like a load of extreme firepower to take it down and not incur a single casualty! Although this mission is a success, another one awaits them. After noticing the UN quickly treating to wounded locals of a nearby village, they join up with Maria, Kirika and Shirabe to destroy the weapon’s factory of the dictator, Val Verde. Hibiki remembers being told about the Pavarian Illuminati. Apparently all the events that have happened since the first season, this group is the one who has been pulling the strings behind the shadows. From FIS to Frontier, they have a hand in all of them. Now they have at least some evidence to prove their existence and that is why they are in Latin America as signs of Alca-Noise have popped up. But this place doesn’t hold too many fond memories for Chris. It looks like her parents died here and Sonya prevented her from following suit. Time for more action with the Symphogear ladies engaging the military as well as the Alca-Noise they can produce. Of course things go berserk as the Alca-Noise also starts killing some of the soldiers. Hey, at least they aren’t discriminating. Hibiki befriends a local boy, Stefan who helps guide them around. He tells them the military has been forcing the locals to work in the factory. Eventually the factory is taken down and Val Verde and his top aides are about to flee. But 3 cuties from Pavarian Illuminati pop up and will put him to good use. I don’t know what happened to them but I believe they’re dead and their life force contributed to whatever Saint-Germain is planning. Along with Cagliostro and Prelati, they head to the basement to recover some doll. The guys from SONG are spying on them when the damn laptop of Sakuya Fujitaka had to beep (finished scanning some data? Could he have put it on silent mode?). Run! Saint-Germain decides to experiment and unleashes some giant dragon spirit, Yohualtepoztli. Lots of men died while trying to protect the data extracted. Before it is Fujitaka and Aoi Tomosato’s turn, here comes Maria’s team! Just in time.

Episode 2
It seems Yohualtepoztli can regenerate no matter how much damage it takes. Saint-Germain views this experiment as a success because it is a step closer to attaining divine power. With that, she stops this experiment and return to base. So they’re letting them go? Saint-Germain says their priority is to retrieve the doll, Tiki. Meanwhile Stefan leads Hibiki’s team to where his villagers are being held hostage by the factor’s director. As they fight the Alca-Noise, Stefan is in danger of being killed by one. But Chris had to do what she had to do. She shot off Stefan’s leg before the infection could spread. Because of that Sonya is blaming her? Hey, he still got his life. Naturally it strained their relationship and this isn’t the kind of reunion they were hoping for after all these years. Flashback 400 years ago when the Pavarian Illuminati was founded on alchemy by gathering pieces of technology left behind by Phine, this led them to clash with Phine herself who sought to monopolize such technology. Adam Weishaupt who was the founder wanted to attain divine power and give it form. But Tiki was lost and their plans put on hold and the organization banished into the shadows. Now that Phine is no more, their revival is imminent. All they have to do is bring back Tiki. Cagliostro and Prelati decide to take lure out the Symphogear girls by attacking the airport. Maria and co respond to the call to fight the duo, dispose of the Alca-Noise and give the airplane the necessary lift off. However they ran out of power and can no longer fight effectively. Think of summoning Yohualtepoztli to finish them? Think again because here comes Hibiki punching right through it! You defy logic by punching through everything! So much about that immortality thingy.

Episode 3
Saint-Germain pops up to bring her comrades away. Back at the base, Saint-Germain revives Tiki who is supposed to be an Autoscorer created to precisely record the movements of the planets on a star map. Tiki is such an energetic bubbly girl? She is more concerned about Adam who she cannot function without. Conveniently speaking, he comes a calling. Too bad business comes first. Saint-Germain wants to investigate how Hibiki tore through the mechanisms of Yohualtepoztli but Adam tells her all that is unimportant. Just destroy the Symphogear girls. Say no more because Cagliostro and Prelati have already launched a pre-emptive strike on Maria and Tsubasa’s plane. Not only they survive, the all-important data is intact too. Returning to SONG’s base, Genjurou explains more about Tiki. During the war, Germany wanted to seek an alternate energy for fossil fuel and Japan as their ally helped in the research and hence some of the Relics like Gungnir ended up in Japan. Everyone can tell Chris has been down ever since Stefan’s incident although she brushes it off. Before they could do anything to cheer her up, it’s those damn Alca-Noise again. Saint-Germain tests another prototype and sends the Symphogear girls to another alternate space. Are they fighting on some alien planet? Actually it is a subspace pocket of Alca-Noise and all their attacks have no effect. The girls have no choice but to up the ante by using Dainsleif but I figure at this point they are a pro at using it. More extreme action to see how they break through everything and return to normal space. Saint-Germain is satisfied of the data they got from this experiment despite the failure. However Tiki has other ideas. She thinks this is the best spot to pick a fight with God.

Episode 4
There is a flashback of Saint-Germain who was being treated as a child slave and led a tragic life. Genjurou explains to the Symphogear girls about this base, Matsushiro where the military HQ was relocated after WW2. It also houses the secret Kazanari Institute. Currently the data is being deciphered but it will take time. The girls wonder why trouble the locals for evacuating them for this mission as ordered by the top boss, Kamakura. Genjurou replies the harsh reality that their mission is to protect the country and not the people. Can there be a country without its people? Maria’s team go down on the ground to find others who have not evacuated. Yup, an old lady plucking tomatoes. Look who decided to show up? Cagliostro is disappointed to see Maria’s side but nevertheless unleashes her Alca-Noise to deal with them. Luckily Chris was nearby to handle her to allow them to escape with granny. When Hibiki and Tsubasa arrive, Cagliostro has orders to retreat. Granny gives Maria a tomato as reward. And something about people’s life and tomatoes’ are similar during hardship? The decryption isn’t going well so Genjurou gets a direct call from Kamakura about his recent failures as he allowed him to use the facilities to make UN be indebted to them. More Alca-Noise are detected. Hibiki’s team take them on with their Dainsleif. Looks like the Pavarian Illuminati trio decide to show up too. This time they have something similar to Dainsleif, Faust Robes. It repels and nullifies their Dainsleif. It’s overpowered too that our Symphogear girls are left defeated. Saint-Germain explains the creation of Faust Robes by uniting the philosopher’s stone with the human body for the ultimate alchemy. It’s all thanks to the data they got from Chateau de Tiffauges. Their goal is to free mankind from oppression. Before they could finish them, here comes Adam. He uses his alchemy to trigger nuclear fusion and turns his fireball into some destructive power worth 10 megatons! Better escape if you know what’s good for you. There’s a giant simmering crater in the aftermath. But the most eyebrow raising thing is that, does he have to do all that naked?!

Episode 5
Don’t worry, all our favourite characters are still alive. As they regroup, Genjurou admits it was their total lost. The base is destroyed as well as all its secret documents. They discuss the fearsome alchemy the enemy possesses that it was able to force out their Dainsleif. Kirika and Shirabe despite injured, continue to train but their injury gets the better of them. They believe doing so can increase their sync rates and they won’t need Linker anymore. Until Elfnein mentions she is close to decipher the last piece of the puzzle from Ver’s recipe. Long story short, she needs to find some part of the brain that is connected to the Symphogear to minimize the stress. There is this VR system Ver left behind. In short, Elfnein can use it to peek into one’s mind but the risk is high since both their minds can merge and can turn into vegetable state. With no time to lose, Maria offers to be the test subject. As the rest waits, they see on the news that Stefan is in Japan to receive to undergo surgery for a prosthetic leg so he could continue his dream to play football. Meanwhile Genjurou is being called by Kamakura for his failure. There is no use chewing him out. He has a job to do. Do it. Elfnein enters Maria’s mind and relives her life. Whatever pain Maria feels, Elfnein could also feel. Too bad most of the memories are painful ones during her time at the facility under Nastassja. Then we have this episode’s obligatory Alca-Noise action so we have Maria who is self-conscious fighting waves of it and emerges victorious. After all, she can dream all she wants in her mind, right? But then they enter the subconscious area and this is where things get unstable and putting their physical bodies in danger. But look who decides to pop up now? The Pavarian Illuminati trio once again unleash a Hydra-like Alca-Noise. While the other Symphogear girls head into action, look who pops up in Maria’s subconscious? Ver! Even dead bad guys like him continue to haunt her in her mind. Yeah, the nightmare is about to begin.

Episode 6
Don’t really get this part but from what I understand, this vision of Ver is trying to lead Maria to the part of her brain connected to Symphogear since he was very intimate with the research. Meanwhile the other Symphogear girls are fighting the Hydra. But when they cut its heads off, it revives and splits into independent creatures. It could be a ploy to split them up and fight them separately but they’ll take the challenge. Maria and Elfnein are in the subconscious part whereby Maria still reels from her fears and insecurities. Then they get absorbed as Maria discovers she is now back in time during her harsh training at the facility. Despite remembering Nastassja being harsh, she remembers closely that each time she did so, she would always have a sad look on her face. She always hid her pain when seeing them suffer. She remembers she also protected all the other children who have gone on to have a brighter future. Nastassja’s harshness was their strength. With that, Elfnein knows that brain part that connects to the Symphogear and wakes up. Time to get to work. The Symphogear girls are being tested on their endurance as the Hydra keeps replicating. To Hibiki’s fear, one of them is heading towards her school. She is about to hit the panic button when Kirika and Shirabe drop in to help take out the Alca-Noise. This time they show no strains on their body and is able to perform at tip top condition. And that Hydra heading towards the school? Easily taken out by Maria. So it seems the all important ingredient in the brain to connect to the Symphogear is… Love! You mean it was this simple and cliché?! With the Symphogear girls emerging victorious and cornering the Pavarian Illuminati trio, time to spit out their intentions. Despite claiming wanting to save mankind, they don’t intend to work together. Because they have the power of God to tear down the curse of Balal. This is sounding to get more ridiculous…

Episode 7
There’s a brief explanation of that but I’m totally lost. Basically, it justifies their reason to sacrifice others. But screw all that, it’s the fights we’re here to see. Kirika and Shirabe thought they could use Dainsleif but their power up is only short-lived. Cagliostro deflects Chris bullets and they almost hit Saint-Germain. Because of that she decides to call for a retreat. Adam isn’t so pleased the trio failed to take care of the Symphogear girls. But with Tiki drawing the horoscope clearer, it’s time to prepare the altar. The trio don’t like how cocky Adam is but Cagliostro and Prelati note their loyalty isn’t to him or the organization but to Saint-Germain. She was the one who gave them perfect bodies and goals when they were originally fakes. So as Saint-Germain prepare the altar, the duo will rid of the Symphogear girls. Elfnein works hard without any break that she might be breaking herself at this rate. It would be sad if she hasn’t found anything after putting in such effort and for plot convenience, here it is. She notices a waste of lump matter that was transmuted from Hibiki when she merged with Gungnir. Since it has the opposite effect of the philosopher’s stone, she proposes using this fool’s stone (that’s what they’re calling it) to be upgraded into the Symphogear. But since it is stored at the underwater Neptune Palace, good luck finding a needle in a haystack. During this time, Cagliostro and Prelati show up to destroy the Symphogear for good. Kirika, Shirabe and Chris are the only ones who can go into action since the rest are underwater looking for the fool’s stone. They can’t let the enemy know about this or they’ll try to stop them. So how can Kirika and Shirabe fight without their Dainsleif? Unison. All they have to do is work together and be in sync. And you see how it work wonders as they kick Prelati’s ass. Because of that, another retreat. Saint-Germain reports the altar is ready but it lacks enough life energy to power its central plinth. Adam suggests sacrificing one of the duo as their perfect body will provide all the life energy needed. Not so keen on sacrificing now, eh? Well, she’s got to choose. Her cause or her comrades.

Episode 8
For the sake of progression, the fool’s stone is found. Elfnein works hard to make a new Ignite module for them. Then Genjurou trains them and despite their firepower and numbers, they cannot beat him! And this is just warm up! WTF?! They should just send this guy to do their battles! Saint-Germain begins the ritual as Adam reminds her it is time to choose. With those pesky Symphogear girls still on the loose, Cagliostro offers to destroy them for good since Prelati is injured and out of action. Before Stefan and Sonya return to their country, they see Chris and Tsubasa. There is still some animosity between Chris and Sonya. As usual, Alca-Noise drop in to attack. Cagliostro is running wild with her powers. When other Symphogear girls arrive, Cagliostro sends Hibiki, Tsubasa, Kirika and Shirabe into separate subspace pocket. Chris and Maria are left to fight her. Chris discovers Stefan and Sonya still haven’t evacuate the building. Wheelchair got stuck. WTF?! Before Cagliostro could kill Chris, Stefan stands up and his football kick saves the day! WTF?! He can perfectly get up and walk so why was he even ‘stuck’?! Anyway Stefan argues how petty the ladies are still bitter about the past unlike him who is so the future. Yeah… It motivates Chris to fight back. This time they use the fool’s stone to negate Cagliostro’s attacks. Their unison and bond are also high enough that their combo forms a twin-seater jet to destroy Cagliostro once and for all! With Cagliostro now dead, Adam sarcastically points out to Saint-Germain this saves her the trouble of choosing. They will sacrifice Prelati who is not in tip top condition. You mad, girl? Oh right. Adam has no humanity, blah, blah, blah. We know. He knows. Big deal.

Episode 9
Tsubasa and Shirabe try out their unison but it’s not working well. It seems only Shirabe is the one who doesn’t register any sort of phonic gain increment with all the unison combo. Naturally, depression sets in. A message from Yatsuhiro comes in regarding the Divine Gate, a power that the Pavarian Illuminati is looking for. For a change of pace, Genjurou sends the Symphogear girls to a shrine to investigate. The priest shows a map that shows the markings of the 7 Hikawa shrines that is like a mirrored version of the Orion constellation. Traditionally known as the Drummer’s Gate to Heaven, it is a gate where gods were known to descend. And possibly what the Pavarian Illuminati is looking for. Since Shirabe is still ‘lost’, the priest talks to her about walls. Walls aren’t just for rejection. Meanwhile Tiki wants Adam to turn her into a real human girl after he gets the divine power so he can be his real wife. They are confronted by Prelati who wants to know his true goal. He reminds them that they should have known their lives are part of his plan for his divine power. However this is the first time Prelati hears this and attacks them. But she soon leaves to go warn Saint-Germain as it is Adam’s to sacrifice all of them all along. Adam won’t go after her and let the Symphogear girls do the job. Shirabe and Tsubasa with the highest mobility go into action first. Prelati desperately tries to shake them off and is not open to listening. Time to use that unison thing. Shirabe still not confident. And yeah, the theme is kindness so something about ii that allows them to power up and combine into some weird drag car? Anyway Prelati gets killed. Tiki calls Saint-Germain to taunt her that Prelati has become road kill and because of that, they cannot use her as a sacrifice. Adam orders her return before the Symphogear girls disrupts the ritual.

Episode 10
Genjurou and co discuss the use of the leylines for a greater ritual and thus started to evacuate the people. Although there are methods to counter it, Adam destroyed all that was stored in Kazanari Institute. That’s what happens when you keep all your eggs in 1 basket. Saint-Germain starts the ritual by sacrificing her life to open the Divine Gate via Earth’s leylines. But Genjurou’s side has done some preparations. The priests of the shrines simultaneously cut the seals to sever the power lines. This disrupts the ritual and cause Tiki to be lifeless. Cue for Saint-Germain to fight Hibiki and Kirika (the rest cannot go into action as their modules are being repaired by Elfnein). Not sure what combo the duo pull off but it doesn’t look like some weird vehicle. Saint-Germain is defeated but even if her will to overthrow oppression is great, she lacks energy. This is where Hibiki comes in and uses the power of persuasion for her to use it in a better way. Just when you thought Saint-Germain is going to cave in, here comes Adam to restart the ritual. Even better, he uses the leylines from the stars in the sky!!! After all, there is that Orion’s Belt in the constellations, right? Saint-Germain tries to ascertain if he is going to use this godly power to overthrow oppression. Nope. Yup, you’ve been duped. He uses Tiki to fire a super blast. Everything could have been vaporized had not Kirika use her swan song to protect it. Although she suppresses its recoil by overdosing on the Linker, it will still be harmful to her body. With Kirika out of action, looks like Saint-Germain is going to defeat the oppressor. Make that 2 of them because Hibiki joins forces with her.

Episode 11
Saint-Germain tells Hibiki to destroy Tiki as she is acting as a vessel and focal point for the power transfer and hence preventing the divine power’s manifestation. Adam gets in their way and as they both fight, Saint-Germain realizes something. Adam could have easily destroyed them with his nuclear power thingy but yet he didn’t. He is waiting for the power from the heavens so this is their chance to take him down. When he is slightly wounded, they are shocked to realize Adam is a puppet. That mere word makes Adam mad. In turn it makes Tiki mad as she transforms into some alien monster. This is supposedly the divine weapon? Too bad it regenerates whenever Saint-Germain damages it. Adam reveals he was created by them as the group’s representative. However he was even perfect as a prototype and tossed away. Because of that, Adam cannot accept the perfect losing to the imperfect. So to answer Saint-Germain’s question if he has humanity left in him, heck he isn’t human to begin with! Tiki unleashes a powerful blast. Though it missed the girls, it seems it hit some American military satellite. Shortly, Genjurou is contacted by Kamakura about this farce. This has already become an internationally known incident and outsiders will deploy their ‘peacekeeping forces’ under UN’s name to invade Japan. Kamakura feels he has to intervene in the battle eventually. An unknown source contacts Genjurou and reveals they have decrypted all of Val Verde documents. One of them included some spear believed to be the one that kill gods. However it doesn’t possess such attributes but contains the same powers as Gungnir. In short, Gungnir is the weapon that could destroy the divine power and it is cue for Hibiki get back up and finish the job. Saint-Germain connects the dots that Adam’s weapon was not intended to destroy the Symphogear but to destroy information that would thwart his plans. Tiki cannot regenerate after being punched by Hibiki. Before she destroys the monster completely, Adam has Tiki eject from it. Though still partially destroyed, he still needs something to harbour the divine power. A puppet. Yeah, his left arm that he just ripped out. Unfortunately all that power didn’t go to him but being absorbed into Hibiki who turns into an eerie cocoon.

Episode 12
It has been 48 hours since Hibiki is in that state. Adam will not give up on that power still so I guess he has gone back to the drawing board. Genjurou is in a pinch since the Americans via UN are threatening to engage armed intervention and Yatsuhiro is trying his best to delay it so his side must produce the results in a very limited time. Thanks to information from Saint-Germain, Elfnein has gotten lots of clues to create an Anti-Linker. Because Yohualtepoztli and the divine weapon need a vessel to manifest stably its immense power, this is also how the Symphogear works. They can assume that same power is engulfing Hibiki. Time is certainly running out as Kamakura has already mobilize the unlimited national defence to prevent this disaster. Of course you know, the girls protest this is called a disaster. This is their friend. Old impatient fart won’t stand for it. The army tanks fire but it only serves to break a giant angry monster out. Yeah, see how powerful her blasts are. The Symphogear girls go into action but their normal methods couldn’t stop her. Once the Anti-Linker pods hit the monster and the effects are taking place, this is where Miku comes in. She screams Hibiki’s name? Apparently using her voice as some electromagnetic signal to get through Hibiki inside. You know, how to voice of your friend tends to wake you up. At least for Hibiki. With that, she breaks out from the monster and into safe hands. Also, with this result, the UN agrees to step down. Happy ending, right? But no. The damn US president (I want to say he looks like Donald Trump but he doesn’t) while on his vacation doesn’t want to take any risk and initiates a missile targeted at Japan! F*ck you America! With the missile homing in, there is not enough time. Even if they manage to cut it, the shockwave will still contaminate the area. This is where Saint-Germain gets to play the tragic hero. She starts singing but is surprised when Cagliostro and Prelati sing by her side. Their ghost? Nope. The real deal. Apparently Cagliostro faked her death to hide from Adam and then saved Prelati before she died. They have been preparing a special transmutation since. Saint-Germain fires this bullet to contain its explosion but it is still not enough. So they use their lives to diffuse it once and for all. All over, right? Nope. Adam returns and he has absorbed all the divine power into his hand. Literally, the power is in his hand. He won’t let them interrupt again but love maniac Tiki grabs on to him. This is what happens if you don’t give your doll enough hugs. This allows Hibiki to smash the divine weapon.

Episode 13
Despite the victory, Hibiki is still sad she couldn’t save Saint-Germain. Save that for later. They’ve still got Adam to deal with. Some Alca-Noise to deal with so as not to ‘forget’ them. When Adam’s body cannot maintain his perfect form anymore, he reverts to his true monstrous form. The people who designed him must be messed up… Guess what? His true form is faster and more powerful! WTF?! So the price of perfection is less speed and power? That isn’t perfect! Eventually all the girls risk their lives by joining their powers to sing their swan song. Leave it to Elfnein and SONG to try and divert the strain to Dainsleif. More beating up until Hibiki’s gear gave out too soon. Luckily the other girls send some of their power before her doom. Hibiki evolves as she now can do all their special moves! Finally, she has the support of Saint-Germain and co as she transcends into a shiny gold armour to give Adam a heap of punches! So explosive that Adam explodes like a nuclear bomb?! More good news as the Pavarian Illuminati members worldwide are arrested. But with the organization gone, the remnants will be the hard ones to track. Yatsuhiro talks to Kamakura about the world condemning America for trying to use such measure. But Kamakura throws him a thought. They have seen a power that rivals God. What if Japan has that power. They wouldn’t need to worry about being attacked and invaded anymore. Tempting… On the lighter side, everyone celebrates Hibiki’s 17th birthday. Just in time. Man, it was one heck of a build up to her birthday. But I suppose the best birthday gift is their victory. As usual, Hibiki is still having worries over her fist-only solution. As usual, Miku is up to remind her no matter what, she will always hold her hand. There. Friendship level increased. Elfnein tells Genjurou her theory why Hibiki was able to serve as a vessel for the divine power. Hibiki was hit with Shenshou Jing and that purified her curse, hence cleansing of her sin. However Genjurou remembers there is another person who was hit by that: Miku.

Star Doors: The Illuminati Strikes Back! Even so, It’s All In The Punching
What else can I say about this season? Everything is left hanging because we already know from the start there will be another season. Things are not done yet. Things have to be done. Basically what I understand this season is that the big final boss of everything has finally shown up and with all the Illuminati conspiracy and memes going around, I suppose they’re going to make use of them here as the main antagonist. After all, Phine is already gone so who else left is there to pull the strings? Blame it all on the Illuminati! Illuminati confirmed! Who’d knew that this sci-fi action series would eventually tread down this path of using the Illuminati as their antagonist. Maybe we will get more of such memes in the future…

This season I am still lost with all the technical terms and jargons like Linkers because I think I could barely remember them. What the heck is that Balal curse again? Therefore when they start getting technical using such terminologies, my brain automatically gets shut off. Yeah. Uhm. Whatever they said. As for the recurring characters especially our Symphogear girls, there isn’t much drama to be played out on them since with have seen them being fleshed out in previous seasons especially last season about Hibiki and her dad. So this time round we have Chris and her connections with some South American acquaintance but that itself isn’t much. Then there is also Kirika and Shirabe and snippets of their past but that too isn’t enough. Tsubasa and Maria are like treading in the background like Hibiki. When Hibiki temporarily turned into a monster, I guess it feels like déjà vu because in the previous seasons I think I remember she too turned into some berserk monster form. Although Miku is sorely missing in action (because in a previous season she did turn into a fighting machine), looks like her eternal role is to always cheer Hibiki up whenever she feels down. Yeah, the cheapest tonic to cure her depression: Friendship! But in the final scenes it is hinted she is more than a bunch of smiles so by the next season she could play an even more significant role.

The new characters for this season are the antagonists. Adam feels like a two dimensional villain because as usual, a powerful head of an organization who wants to wield absolute power. And before you can claim that he is so cliché that he has no humanity in him because of how cruel he is, they think they can pull a quick one over us because of the revelation he isn’t human to begin with! Oh, the irony. A puppet trying to destroy humanity. Turns out he looks more like a demon than your typical puppet. Am I paranoid to think this is what would happen if AI gets more intelligent than mankind in the future? I fear so… The biggest irony that a puppet is the one thinking he has the right to decide on the fate of humanity when we humans don’t even give a sh*t about each other.

As for Saint-Germain, Cagliostro and Prelati, I already predicted that they would be misguided and then somewhat become allies with the Symphogear girls in the end although it is just for a short while. Though Saint-Germain will not consider them fighting alongside each other as an ally, but if you’re fighting the same enemy together, that is good enough for me to consider that temporary team up as allies. Too bad they didn’t live in the end and hence breaking the combo of when the next season comes by, the Symphogear girls would have a new face joining their ranks (maybe they could as ghosts). Because that is what Elfnein is literally. She is now like the mad scientist of the group, only with a lot of anxiety and guilt because of the need to make better Symphogear technology for the girls to fight better, blah, blah, blah. One of the biggest ironies is how Saint-Germain was so confident and did not bat an eyelid in taking lives of others for her misguided cause only to start sweating when Adam the jerk decided to use hers and her aides. It’s like saying she can do unto others but others cannot do unto her. Like having 2 different set of rules applied. In the end, I guess all that matters is that she is satisfied to finally put her life for good use. Hey, you can’t make great progress if you don’t put your own life on the line, can you?

I suppose if there is something that I need to ‘praise’ and something that I have ‘enjoyed’ this season is the ridiculous action. Yes, this season like the previous maintains its over the top exaggerated action. It has all the flashy and explosive effects that would make your jaw drop in disbelief. You could almost feel the power packed in all those explosions. Bang for your buck? It is nonsensical but it’s fun. I wouldn’t go as far as to put the action on the same level as Hollywood’s Mad Max: Fury Road. But I’ll say it is more along the lines of that kind of mindless action. After all, when you are fighting hordes of colourful and ‘cute’ Alca-Noise, you need to destroy them in bulk as it would definitely be inefficient to destroy them one by one. This season also introduces combo team ups from the Symphogear girls as they form some sort of weird getup to destroy the enemy. Nice gimmick. So I guess we can look forward to the other strange versions they will turn into via different combinations in the future.

But nothing beats Hibiki’s punching. It’s like saying there is nothing that cannot be defeated with a good punch. Her Gungnir is like the answer to almost everything. Ironically she wants to win battles without sacrifices but always ends up using her fists. I guess that shows her persuasion skills aren’t as good as her punches. Oh well. You know what they say about action speaks louder than words. Also, it would be just plain boring and unrealistic to see Hibiki just winning over the enemy with words. That’s not why we watch this series, right? And now that she has the ability to do special attacks of her comrades… How further more will she evolve? Sometimes it feels funny that the Pavarian Illuminati girls decide to go destroy the Symphogear girls, only to always get defeated, it feels like some sort of joke because it’s like rinse and repeat every time. They feel confident in taking them down and when they clash, they lose. Retreat. Rest for a while to get back that confidence. Have a go again. I suppose this is only how we’ll get our Symphogear action.

I also want to mention the character designs of the antagonists. When Adam first made his appearance, instantly I thought what the heck is Sinbad from Magi doing here?! Has that king of Sindria finally gone rogue?! Plus, with his white suit, at certain angles he reminds me of Michael Jackson! Aaow! Heehee! Smooth Criminal! Okay, his white suit doesn’t resemble like Michael Jackson’s iconic one in Smooth Criminal but I just can’t help remember that King of Pop when looking at him. His true form she got me thinking of what is deemed as perfect. At least in the visual and physical department. Because if Adam deems his own looks as perfect, is this what humans who created him model after? Then why the heck was his true form hideous? Don’t really get it. Then there is the battle suit of Prelati. She is the oddest of the lot as it makes her look like some mini monster. Worse, it could be one of those animal pyjamas that kids go to sleep with. Serious. Then there is those Alca-Noise do come in all colours, shapes and sizes. However I tend to notice a few that really looks ridiculous. I believe I saw a few as bananas… WTF?!

I don’t know if a few political punching bags were made because the first adventure of this series that has them head to South America, one of the dictators reminded me of Venezuela’s president, Nicolas Maduro! Maybe it was just me but then again, many dictators are stereotyped as fat bad moustachioed guys. And then there is the one of the US president. Doesn’t look like Donald Trump as I have said earlier but why do I get this feeling that it is supposed to be referring to him? And why does the pre-emptive missile strike feels like the one about North Korea?! Hopefully it is just me and crazy reality. Then there is that instant back down of the UN once SONG managed to diffuse the situation. It’s a good thing they are trying to tell us negotiations are the way instead of WMDs as proof that humans can get along. But from this reality which I came from… It sounded like BS crap. Honestly.

New casts joining this series’ line-up are Miki Shinichiro as Adam (Urahara in Bleach), Minako Kotobuki as Saint-Germain (Asuka in Hibike! Euphonium), Rina Hidaka as Prelati (Last Order in To Aru Majutsu No Index), Hina Kino as Tiki (Sylvia in Masou Gakuen HxH), Natsumi Fujiwara as Sonya (Chihiro in Shonen Maid) and Asuna Tomari as Stefan. The surprising one is Shouta Aoi as Cagliostro. Very rare that a man voices a female’s role. He certainly has a very feminine voice that would fool many into thinking that he is a woman. After all, many of his anime roles are effeminate guys like Ai in Uta No Prince-sama series, Licht in Oushitsu Koushi Haine and Renren in Hatsukoi Monster. The only other female role he voiced is Michael in Shingeki No Bahamut: Genesis. Like in previous seasons, Nana Mizuki takes on the opener, Testament while Ayahi Takagaki does the ending theme, Futurism. The techno rock style of these music isn’t my cup of tea and so are the many songs they sing during battle.

Overall, I believe only true Symphogear fans would enjoy and appreciate what is going on up till this point. If not for the mindless power action, I would have been even bored to death with all the confusing terms and plot (although it is as simple as girls in revealing sci-fi suits fighting the baddies who want to destroy or rule the world). So I am deducing that the next season would be the big finale that would end the series because after working so hard to come this far, all the battles they have fought, the lives they have saved and the friendships created, it would be a major insult to suddenly have a new hidden antagonist popping up and who is the actual big bad boss behind everything so far. Please don’t turn it into such cliché because we really want to see off the girls gracefully in their most beautiful swan song when the time comes. A song that would become an evergreen classic.

This is what I didn’t have in mind when I heard Luck & Logic was going to have another season. Heck, I believe ordinary people wouldn’t have thought it was the sequel so they had to put it in the name just to tell us. Yup, make no mistake. Hina Logi – From Luck & Logic is not exactly a direct sequel of the original. Instead it takes place many years after the Foreigner threat has been stabilized. There is now world peace. At least humans and Foreigners are somewhat coexisting. So what is left to tell when you don’t have alien baddies from another world to harm us? Why, you have a group of cute lolis in a school that trains them to be future Logicalists to maintain the future and world peace. That’s about it! So, this has turned from some sci-fi action fantasy into some cute girls doing cute things?

Episode 1
Liones “Lion” Yelistratova hitches a ride from the countryside to arrive at Pirari Academy, a training school for Logicalists. Nina Alexandrovna sees a huge backpack before her. My, what a cute blue little furry critter. Turns out it is Lion crushed under the backpack and she knows Nina. Belle is her pet familiar. After feeding the hungry girl, Nina is tasked by the teacher to show Lion around but since she is dirty, shower time first. Lion then meets Rino Fujisaki, the assistant homeroom teacher and is given an ALCA card. Lion is nervous introducing herself in class. Yayoi Tachibana the class rep warmly welcomes her to make her feel at ease. Now we have a short review of generally the terms in this series so as to refresh our memories what are Logicalists, Foreigners and the likes. Lion has lunch with her classmates. They learn she is the only child of a royalty of a small country and despite being a highly ranked, she is unsure of what it takes to be a Logicalist. Like she already has Belle but has not make any contract with it whatsoever. When they want to analyse Belle, it starts jumping about mischievously. In all that confusion, Lion worries what she’ll do. Her card then activates as she turns into some plant whipping princess? Not only that, her character has changed into a playful one. The vines go out of control so Nina believes she is Trancejack. Nina transforms into her sci-fi magical girl form to turn her back to normal. While Lion is unconscious, she dreams of this mysterious woman. Later, Lion talks to Nina and she knew her because she saw her on TV before. She admired her and wanted to be like her, her reason for coming here. However Nina lets her know she is only here because of orders from her superior. Therefore she isn’t confident they can become friends as she might go back to HQ soon. Lion remains positive that even so, she’ll be right behind her tail. Lion must be overflowing with love so she tries to hug Nina and they end up falling over the bridge into the shallow river. Cue for all the girls to take a bath together. They further learn Nina snuck away to this academy since her father was against her enrolling here. It’s like she ran away from home but her mom knows she is here.

Episode 2
The girls take their midterm exams. Wait. Lion doesn’t even know what that is?! It’s no surprise she can’t answer and is damn right she should be worried about her score. I guess Lion is cute enough that she becomes the object of tug of war between the student council president and her vice, Mizuki Azuma and Yuuko Morigaya respectively. They note how the world is peaceful enough that Logicalists on active duty are able to transfer to study here. Later we have mock practice battles between the girls like Nina vs Yayoi in which the former wins. Homeroom teacher, Shizuha Kagura has Lion register Belle to her card. Lion is transported into another dimension where she comes face to face with that mysterious woman, Rosa. She wants to stay with Nina and be stronger. With that, she is able to transform without being Transjack. The results are out. Lion scores 15%. Hey, at least it isn’t zero. Nina remembers her superior, Veronica wanted her to study and train at Pirari despite having understand all the fundamentals and possessing capabilities of a university graduate. There is something she wants her to learn there. Nina thinks this is her way of telling her she is weak. She will prove herself and then apply to reinstate her previous mission. Lion, Nina and Mahiro Kyoubashi make their way to go flower viewing. Nobody trusts Mahiro’s device because it always malfunctions and explodes in the end. They manage to find the place and enjoy themselves. I guess it was worth it even though Nina remembers she missed today’s training.

Episode 3
The girls are alerted when the alarm is sounded. Was there supposed to be a drill. Lion’ sharp eye could spot something approaching. It is a man in armour riding a missile! All the anti-aircraft guns can’t take it down. Kagura’s bazooka took down the missile. The man then barges through the door and fights Kagura. It all comes to a stop when Lion tells her stupid dad to stop! That’s her dad?! Oh, he is the kind of father who dotes on his daughter (he even named her after his kingdom). No wonder Lion is so embarrassed and doesn’t like him. So hate is his taboo word and he’ll get emotional if that ever happens. He is here to see his daughter. Because he keeps bugging, the vice principal is forced to allow him to stay and watch. It must be weird, awkward and downright embarrassing for Lion to have her dad following around and cheering her. The only time she opens to him is when he serves lunch. But even that she realizes how embarrassing it is and wants to be left alone. Poor papa… During a mock practice battle between Lion, Nina, Yayoi and Mahiro, Mahiro didn’t want to lose and messed with that missile (why the f*ck is it still there despite being cordoned off?) and they all blast off towards the snowy mountains. Nina couldn’t stop hugging a cute bear cub. Father bear takes this the wrong way and gets mad. Time to run. But Nina still won’t stop hugging… Hiding inside a cave, Lion uses her plant power as a mark to pinpoint where they are. The bear corners them. For once, Lion is praying for dad to save her. And you bet this Russian dude is going to trek and climb all the way to save his daughter. There is no man stronger than a father protecting his daughter. One punch is enough to knock the bear out. Seeing the cub crawling back to it, father understands they are the same. Best reward for him when Lion comes hugging him. Back at the academy. Lion is grateful and realized daddy was worried about her. But worry no more. She has her own friends. Should papa be sad? When it is time to eat, Lion takes all the containers to share them with her friends in her dorm. Oh, only women are allowed in this dorm. Sorry daddy, your little girl has flown the nest.

Episode 4
Mahiro is updating Yuuko’s PC. It seems her password is very easy to remember because it is her birthday. Then the girls realize that today is her birthday! So Yayoi and the rest have a secret meeting to give Yuuko a surprise birthday party (Yuuko is kept busy with all the updates and installation progress). All is set for a pyjamas party when Nina points out what about the presents. You fail as birthday organizer! Yayoi, Nina and Lion head to town to shop for a present while Mahiro, Karen and Karin Kiritani try to stall Yuuko. As the party will be in her room, they need to get her out. Mahiro uses her remote to spam fake viruses. So she leaves to go find Mahiro. Since she could come back anytime, they have Mizuki lure her away by saying there is a bomb in her room! Those virus alerts must be it. Mizuki wants to invite Yuuko to her own personal birthday party but she is taking too dramatically long and Yuuko is gone. With nowhere to go, Yuuko cleans the bathroom. Does she need to Trance just to clean? Meanwhile, because Lion is having fun eating here and there, I guess they got some delay in buying a present. They bump into a little crying girl who insists on getting a dahlia. They ask all the flower shops but coincidentally dahlia has all been sold out. One shop only sells the seeds but this is enough for Lion. She uses her Trance to water and grow them. The little girl is happy and goes on her way. By the time they get to the store, it is already closed. But Nina points they already have a present. After Yuuko is done bathing, she sees an invitation card in the basket asking her to come to her room dressed in these pyjamas. The girls surprise her (honestly, she doesn’t sound THAT surprise) and it is the best birthday party ever. They hand her dahlias as present but she hands them back each a piece as thanks. Mahiro has created a long ass password that is better fool proof. They look like random letters and numbers… That little girl could be the school’s principal in her chibi form? Mizuki continues to eagerly wait for Yuuko…

Episode 5
In addition to the written exam, there will also be a practical exam for these future Logicalists. Yayoi trains hard as she wants to be number one but it seems Nina can do her training even better and without sweat. Trying hard to catch up? Fujisaki explains the practical exam whereby they have to move ‘victims’ in the form of cute stuffed dolls past certain spots to safety at the principal’s office. I wonder if they will be listening to the rest of the rules like the limited number of times they can Trance and not allowed to hurt others. If their victim gets injured or they lose it, they get disqualified. Veteran Logicalists like Chloe, Mana and Yukari helping out. The first part of the test sees Kagura standing before them. Are they going to fight her? Hell no! Jump off the bridge and into the water to bypass her! While climbing the rocks, Mana snipes at them while Yukari helps out. Yayoi falls off but Lion Trances to save her. Yayoi wants to disqualify herself but is told their mission is to get the victims to safety. Nina duels with Chloe and although she beats her, she gets taken about by Mana-Yukari combo. Yayoi then comes to face Chloe and the latter warns her comrades not to help her. Yayoi feigns and gives Chloe the slip since she has a secret help from Lion. I guess that’s what you get when you don’t allow your pals to help. In the end, Lion takes first place and Yayoi allowed her to do so since it was her strategy that made her realize what is important. So while everybody has fun soaking in the hotspring, only Nina looks miserable. Later Kagura has Lion undergo a test by letting her hold a mirror. As she thinks about Rosa, the mirror starts to glow green stuff. Kagura explains the mirror shows her balance with Rosa. As a Logicalist and Foreigner share half their Logic and become one, Lion is entrusting too much to Rosa. It is bad as it could damage herself and her surroundings. She must learn to retain her own will. Nina continues to train hard but she still doesn’t look happy.

Episode 6
Everyone is at Lion’s home and kingdom for the summer vacation. Why does the air-cond in the place have to break down at all times? I’m sure Lion’s mom’s great hospitality would cool things down. Except when she’s going to teach her husband a lesson for all this. When school just ended, he came to pick up Lion back home. However Lion wants to stay with her friends a little longer. He ‘enticed’ them that back home has got lots of food, luxurious amenities and a place to explore Foreigners! Wow! Please let us come! Only Nina has no interest but with Lion begging with puppy dog eyes, that’s how the whole gang is here. Meanwhile Lion and Mahiro are out in nearby forests researching about Foreigners. Mahiro explains her entire family are ALCA researchers. They’re so obsessed in researching, she wonders if they’ll ever come home. They didn’t find any Foreigners here so Mahiro hopes perhaps Belle could have some clues. Lion isn’t sure and views it as a family member. Thanks to Lion’s dad using his might to create a pool, the girls can now rest easy and cool off. After a nice BBQ, they head to the nearby woods to watch the stars. Seeing a shooting star, they all make their wish. Mahiro blurts out hers as wanting to go to the alternate world. She is really curious about Foreigners and wants to see what their world is like. Her parents were against it since it will be dangerous as a human body is not very adaptive. So why not ask Belle? Well, if that critter can talk. Nope. But it can sing! Maybe Lion taught it? Lion also hums along. The girls have not heard it before so Lion’s dad points out this song is not from this world. It used to be a song Rosa sang. Mahiro is excited and wants to meet her but Lion left her card back at the academy. Looks like she’ll have to wait till they get back. The next day the friends leave. Nina had to ‘assure’ Lion she’ll come back to the dorm early to give her some hope. Maybe she doesn’t want to be too long with her baka dad? Even if dad wants to have fun with her all day? But mom tells her to finish something important first: Her homework!

Episode 7
Mizuki is at her usual spying on Yuuko in the morning. She almost gets spotted and I don’t think acting like a bird will do the trick. Luckily a call from Lion that she is coming home tomorrow (daddy is heard crying so badly in the background) distracts her. But Mizuki is now stuck on the tree. Yuuko is in a dilemma since she will be having a career discussion. She doesn’t know if she wants to join ALCA once she graduates. Here comes Mizuki to give her opinion. I guess it sounded exaggerated because of some grand revolution nonsense. But as she explains how ALCA has put a lot of effort to maintain the balance in all the worlds, it sounds very true and realistic. Yuuko remembers she had many dreams as a kid including being a patisserie and florist. She joined this academy but her powers are not suited for battle. Mizuki on the other hand couldn’t form a covenant but is proud that she is able to see the world the way she does. As Yuuko is still uncertain in her life, Mizuki says to do whatever she wants. There is no better motivation than that. She wants to invite her for the Bon festival dance competition but Lion has returned and cuts her off. Maybe next time. With everyone back at the dorm, it’s time to prepare for the festival. But first, those who didn’t finish their homework are forced to do so. Luckily Lion has already done hers. All thanks to tiger mom. We see the girls in their yukata enjoying their evening at the festivals. Some moments together between Lion and Nina. Then an incident. The prize for the dance is stolen. Black feathers are seen around it. Of course they’re going to find it and it’s cue for your girls to Trans this episode. It doesn’t take a genius to know the culprit is a crow and no time for them to retrieve it. Lion sees Yuuko spying at them from a tree branch and climbs up to go join her. This makes the other girls fluster since she isn’t wearing anything underneath. Strange, because everyone is doing the same. They don’t have to get Mizuki down since she falls off after a massive nose bleed. Everyone goes back to have fun. Yuuko tells Mizuki she likes it best seeing Lion and her friends have fun. She likes their smile and wants to watch them grow up. It sounds creepy but if that is her dream, so be it. Oh, Lion won the dance.

Episode 8
The girls are showing their summer research projects. Mostly as weird as it gets. Then it’s Mahiro’s turn. She is really eager to show her mecha that allows human to enter the Paradox Zone. Too bad she spent so much time, the teachers won’t let her demonstrate it. Then Mizuki announces their school’s cultural festival and hopes everyone could pitch ideas on what to do based on the theme of coexisting with Foreigners. So the girls start thinking of what to do until Mahiro hits the idea of singing that song Lion hummed. They should be able to learn Foreigner culture from such songs. Since they have only 1 song, Yayoi suggests making a play out of it. This means Mahiro is made the project leader and has to write the script. Responsibility feels so heavy… You can tell how hard she works as she falls asleep in class with lame mechanisms to make it look like she is still awake. The teacher isn’t going to bother her… The rest have a mock battle. At the end of it, Lion still has that green glowing stuff. Kagura suggests she’ll need to train her in more ways. Especially of the heart. How? Kagura feigns attacking Lion and she immediately Trance. This shows she is too sensitive. With threats as small as this, her emotions run wild. Lion isn’t only having trouble trying to be the best Logicalist. Nina too is pondering how to get back to ALCA. Lion doesn’t want to bother Mahiro so she sleeps at Yayoi’s room. She notes that Mahiro always puts in a lot of energy to do things. Of course she has failed many times. But she wouldn’t be Mahiro otherwise. Mahiro has finally write up the script. She makes her casting announcement with Lion and Nina helming the starring roles. While Lion is ecstatic, Nina isn’t.

Episode 9
It’s funny. Lion’s father engaging his entire maid force just to rescue a cat stuck high up. They make it sound so dramatic. But then he has to leave for a more important mission. It’s the school’s cultural festival. Preparations are coming along fine. Except for Lion. Her acting sucks. However she can only act whenever she is in Trance. Otherwise, normal Lion is just as stiff as ever. During the festival, since the play will be in the afternoon, the girls go visit the various stalls. Lion notices a number on Yuuko and it seems those with them are candidates for a popularity contest. And suddenly Lion gets one too. Yeah, you bet her father is promoting very hard to make her win. He has got competition from Mizuki since she is also promoting for Yuuko’s victory. It comes to a crashing halt for big daddy since his wife is here to take him away. Oh, that cat mission was a success. During the play, everything is going well with Rosa in Lion’s place. Until the climax part Lion accidentally slips and is snapped out of her Trance. She gets stage fright. Nina quickly improvises and calms her down so they manage to sing the song together and end the play on a high note. Lion later hugs her mom and ignores her dad. Nina gets a surprise visit by Veronica who is glad she has adapted to high school life and wants her to continue enjoying it. Mizuki announces the winner of the popularity contest: Yuuko! Poor Lion’s dad can’t stop crying. But why do I have a feeling the result is rigged? Yayoi talks to Mahiro that although their play got second place, everybody worked hard for it and believes Mahiro’s message was delivered. Too bad Mahiro is fast asleep.

Episode 10
Lion must be happy winter break is coming. But first… The exams… Not so happy now. Like the last time, there will be written and practical exam. The latter will be in knockout format and it looks like Lion will face Nina in the first round. Nina talks to the principal and is confident she will be placed first in everything. She is requesting for a chance to go back to ALCA. She didn’t give a straight answer but I’m figuring it’s a no. Lion continues to suck at practice with Kagura. I don’t see any improvements at all. So Nina and Lion’s fight is here. Surprisingly, it is Lion who goes on the offensive. This makes Nina mad because it is as though she is hiding her strength all this while. She tries to go easy on her then but Nina feels insulted for being pitied. Sh*t hits the fan when Nina doesn’t consider Lion her friend. Wait. If she isn’t your friend, but you’re worried she is now crying? That is when Lion loses it and her powers go berserk. Rosa takes over and wrecks the place. Nothing like a few shouting from her other friends to bring Lion back. But when Nina tries to talk to her, Rosa takes over again and escapes. Nina volunteers to look for her and Belle is brought along since it has this power to balance her out. When Lion is found, Rosa’s vines start attacking her. Nothing like whipping a few pain and scratches to stir up some emotion. Finally Belle gets to Lion and, uhm, starts glowing. Lion reverts back once Nina manages to touch her. Kiss and makeup, okay? As Nina passes out, Lion notices they are lost in the middle of the icy desert. She seeks Belle’s help and at this point Belle turns into her true majestic Foreigner form. They both make a pact. This means a new Trance outfit for Lion. They return safely. In the aftermath, they are told that the practical is cancelled (but of course) and they’ll calculate their scores based on something else. They also have to report to ALCA in detail. It doesn’t matter who is at fault as ALCA will be the one who decides. That will take some time. More importantly, the duo are back safely. Lion and Nina further reconcile and return to the rest of their friends who are already all geared up for the Christmas party.

Episode 11
The friends leave for the winter break. Nina is only left at the dorm. She is happy because she can now watch her reserves of comedy. What? And also study something about the universe. Huh? All that comes crashing down when she sees Lion in her room. Didn’t she leave? Apparently she heard Nina wasn’t going back and decided to stay. I guess it’s better to be in her company than her dad’s, eh? If you can’t beat them, join them. They got addicted to the kotatsu that they’re so lazy in answering the door. They do a staring contest and Lion loses immediately and laughs like mad. Nina is insulted since she didn’t do a funny face. But Belle is laughing too… It seems someone delivered high quality crabs. From who? Don’t know. But after eating it, they realize it is sent to the wrong person. Fujisaki seems to be waiting forever for it when it finally arrives. She is going to share this with Kagura but something tastes off… It doesn’t tastes like high quality crab… In actuality, Nina and Lion rushed to the store to buy crab sticks and replace them before delivering it to the right doorstep. As Yuuko is making Valentine Chocolates, Lion and Yayoi help out. Lion accidentally spoils the oven but nothing like Mahiro can fix it. But you know how she fixes things… The oven ‘attacks’ Lion but is luckily taken out by Nina’s arrow. Lion gives the chocolate as thanks but after Nina eats it, she feels different. Suddenly Nina confesses she loves Lion and starts hugging her! OMG! First lesbian loli sex?! Why you so freaked out Lion? Didn’t you like this? It is believed Nina’s arrow had some sort of effect so they need to dispose the rest. How? Mahiro eats one! Now she has lesbian loli sex with Yayoi! Karen and Karin walk in to see this betrayal. How will they protect her? Join in and make it a foursome! Yuuko needs to dispose the last one but bumps into Mizuki. She thinks the chocolate is for her and eats it. But we aren’t surprised seeing we know her character. I don’t think she is under its influence as she gets down to her knee and proposes to Yuuko. But Yuuko isn’t shocked. She believes the effects will wear off and returns to the rest. Mizuki feels so rejected. The affected girls return to normal. Nina must be in damn shock to learn what has happened. It’s Lion’s turn to get lovey-dovey with her. Though Nina still gives her own chocolate to Lion and this makes her very happy.

Episode 12
It looks like Lion and Nina won’t be punished by ALCA. However Lion will need to take extra supplementary classes. Later Fujisaki and Kagura talk to Nina privately. They hand her a letter from ALCA commending her actions. Does this mean she has a chance to go back to ALCA? Yayoi and Karin heard this and report it to the rest. The only one still overreacting is Yayoi. Even Lion is happy for Nina. But her happiness looks fake… And then seeing Yuuko packing her stuffs because she is graduating in 2 more days puts a lot more damper. Yayoi thought of hatching up a plan to make it look like there is a reason for Nina to stay but you’ll know it will fail. Like this lavish dinner, the topic of Yuuko leaving permeating the conversation. Then there is this leaving photos of Lion and Nina as a trail. Nina finds it creepy and the one who fell for it is Lion. Yayoi and Mahiro best Karin and Karen to win the right to face Nina in their challenge letter. Nina takes on both of them and in the end she beats them both despite not even going all out. Graduation ceremony is here. Mizuki has lots of fan girls crying over her. Not sure why Mizuki is ‘sad’ when Yuuko tells her juniors that she has been assigned to the same ALCA office as her. Is it because she knows she considers her as troublesome? Is this a hint she doesn’t like her? Suddenly the withered sakura trees bloom back to life. This could only be the work of Lion so Nina starts finding her. Apparently Lion must be so important that Nina purposely runs pass Veronica even when their eyes met. Pretend to look the other way? Eventually Nina finds Lion and learns she did this as a parting gift. Lion promises to catch up to her. Is 5 years enough? Okay Lion. Stop pretending to be tough. It’s time to cry. Nina hugs her and drops the biggest news: She is staying. How could she leave all her previous friends behind? Now everyone can be all smiles again. After they see off Yuuko and Mizuki, they walk home holding hands. They tell each other the kind of Logicalist they want to become. Nina whispers softly that she looks up to Lion. Care to repeat that louder? They return to their waiting friends. Lion bursts the bubble telling them Nina considers them as previous friends. Big smiles! Big group hug! But don’t overdo it! Too late. Lion did so and they all fall into the river. How the heck can Lion catch a fish?!

Screw Logic! Because, Friendship
I guess that is the price we all have to pay for peace. Everything looks so boring unless you enjoy little girls having fun hanging out together you lolicon! It was really kinda expected of Nina to remain because it will be totally sad that if Yuuko goes, it will be double blow for another one to go. I mean, who is going to fill in that freaking huge friendship gap?! Make new friends?! At this point where the anime has just ended?! Screw that. Even happier ending when ALCA decided not to fully punish them because it is a crime to just punish lolis. They might lose some brownie points if they do so because some higher ups might have that sort of fetish. Oops… So another day, another year and another term. I’m guessing more or less the same thing will happen to our friends because what else could happen if there is nothing bad or evil lurking in this time and world but only good and fun times? We better be grateful for those Logicalists who fought and sacrifice their lives for this.

I don’t know. I feel that if the series had not been associated with the original Luck & Logic and stands on its own and everything, I’m not sure if I would feel this way. Because it still is one boring cute girls doing cute things. Sure, there are some cute and light hearted moments but nothing in general that would make it stand out from the numerous cute girls doing cute things shows that I have seen throughout the seasons and years. So for familiarity and nostalgia sake, they use a few familiar terminologies like Foreigners and Logicalists as well as making some of the characters in the original series to return. But they too don’t add much to anything. After all, what plot is there to tell when the Foreigner threat has been subdued? I can only blame myself for expecting that this sequel would be close to the original despite I wasn’t that impressed with the original and had this hope this sequel would make it up. Well, it didn’t. Maybe if I don’t compare it with the original, this spin-off sequel does have its own merits. Like cute girls doing cute things. That can’t be entirely a bad thing, right? Better than seeing cute lolis being sent to battle and fight hostile aliens and seeing them being injured. World peace is the best!

This means whatever questions you want to know and development or things you want to find out about the other worlds especially the Foreigners, they will not be answered. We have no clue about the other world these Foreigners come from or the history or why they have been hostile to us and that curious song that Lion knows that belongs to Foreigners. But screw all that, right? Who cares about Foreigners who look like cute adult humanoids when you can have a bunch of cute lolis.

As for the characters, the main concentration is on the Lion and Nina pair. It’s to showcase their ‘beautiful friendship’, I guess. Because in such peaceful times, Lion is ‘forgiven’ to be helming the role of the airhead, ditz and klutz. We put up with it because she is cute and have that moe charming effect on us. We don’t hate honest girls like her and since she is super genki and lively, all is forgiven. Yeah, I can’t even find myself to consider her annoying as much as I want to. Because you know, moe factor. For dynamism in many friendships, we need to have another character who is at the other end of the pole. That is where Nina comes in. At first she doesn’t show any emotions and isn’t as bubbly as Lion. Slowly she opens up her heart to her and finds that it isn’t bad having her as a friend. It was interesting to note why she was sent here by Veronica instead of continuing her stay at ALCA. I suppose Veronica had some sort of vision of Nina’s attitude and wanted her to experience something that only schools could provide. For better or worse, Nina does change a little. She might not put up big smiles but at least eking out a little smile is better than no smile. Even when she decided to stay and I saw this coming from miles away, it wasn’t really a surprise. From a girl who looked so bent in returning to ALCA has succumbed to the temptations called friendship. Yeah, it can really do wonders even for a strong willed girl like her. My worry is that if Lion drags her down and doesn’t buckle up, they will join ALCA much later. But that’s okay. They have each other, right?

As for the other characters, there isn’t much to note about them and it feels like they are there for a bit of variety. Because there is the danger of us getting bored if they spam too much Lion-Nina time. So like Yayoi, she sounds and looks like a typical oujo-sama although she has her pride, it is a good thing she isn’t the arrogant type like how most oujo-sama types always turn out to be. She is friendly and helpful at times. Her personal bodyguards, Karin and Karen also feel like poles apart. Because with Karin being the more responsible one, Karen is the airhead and ditzy one. Is there some sort of trade off for that because as a result for being the more responsible one, Karin is as flat as a washboard while Karen is so well-endowed. Is this where her brains go to? Mahiro’s running joke is that whatever inventions she makes or fixes, it will tend to blow up in her face. Is this what we all want to remember her by?

Then there is Yuuko and Mizuki. It also feels like a running joke that Mizuki is trying so hard to charm Yuuko but all that always fails and backfires because Yuuko ignores it all or she doesn’t give a sh*t. Maybe it is because of Mizuki’s dramatic over the top acting. Sorry to say this, but perhaps Yuuko isn’t accepting you isn’t because of all the fakeness and bad acting. You should be yourself if you want a better chance of Yuuko accepting you. Or maybe this is Mizuki’s true self? Or Yuuko is just one big blur head and doesn’t know it even if it is spelled out in front of her eyes. Well, keep trying. And keep being disappointed. At least we’ll give you points for being perseverance. Not too sure if Mizuki is trying to be something like Revolutionary Girl Utena because the way she dresses reminds me of so although I didn’t see that anime.

Adding to the mystery aspect is the principal and vice principal. They barely show up unless necessary but the principal herself is a big bag of mystery. I’m sure we have many questions about her existence like why is she always playing a harp in her spare time and why is her hair such an odd colour or maybe if she is some sort of hybrid between a human and Foreigner. But with all the focus on our moe young girls, why do we care about older women anyway?

For added cuteness and the need for an animal mascot of the series, hence the reason why Belle sticks around with Lion. Perhaps the same reason why Pikachu follows Ash instead of being cooped up in the Pokeball like other Pokemon. Because as I have noticed, the girls do possess multiple contracts with several Foreigners and is able to switch and Trance between them. So for Belle to be besides Lion everywhere she goes, it is like a subliminal plot to have them enter a contract eventually. In which in my case, so what? I guess it is better than popping up a random never seen before Foreigner.

Personally, the most interesting and my personal favourite character in this series is not any one of these girls. Yup. The only guy in this series is Lion’s father. Not that I’m being gay with him after being hit with all the loli lesbian fanservice but this guy is just funny. This macho guy isn’t so macho once you get to know how much he dotes on Lion and then gets depressed when his little girl ignores him. The way he overdoes his love and ‘protection’ of Lion is just funny. But I guess that is a father’s love for you. He might be the king of his own little kingdom but he can never be king of Lion’s heart. Because Lion must be going through that puberty phase. Only his wife can put a stop to his extreme ways to spoil his daughter. This guy should get more appearance. And ruin Lion and Nina’s lesbian loli moments? I’m sure papa would approve. As long as it isn’t a boy. I can already imagine this big guy’s reaction if there is ever a time Lion falls in love with a real boy. Imagine that kind of ‘foreigner’…

One of the funniest segments has to be the next episode preview. In many instances, we see the teachers of the school drinking at the bar and mostly Fujisaki and the vice principal complaining about something. Especially about finding her Mr Right. Typically how a frustrated single woman who isn’t getting younger by the day would cry and blurt it all out over a few cups of alcohol. I guess they’re desperate they’ll take on any advice. Even taking some from Lion’s mom who appeared once as a guest. At the end of it all, we see Belle giving us that smirk. Is it trying to imply something about these no hopers?

The action scenes in this sequel isn’t really something to look forward to. It feels forced. Because mock battles between the girls feel necessary from time to time to remind us what this show was about as well as to showcase their magical girl outfits and the transformation scene. Yeah, only in such weird outfits that these girls could pull off special powered moves. Otherwise, the fights are just as boring since it feels like the lesbian loli fanservice is the factor that they are trying to focus on. So if you like your women mature, look somewhere else. So no real fights with dangerous Foreigners because they’ve all been tamed enough so our girls can have a good time frolicking with each other.

Art and animation are very bright and colourful. Important when you want to highlight how cute and moe the girls are. Well, I guess having them in normal school uniform and the occasional magical girl-like outfit when they trance is better than the original’s ALCA uniform whereby the crotch area looks freaking weird. Imagine the female characters wearing those… Just too weird. Animated by Doga Kobo who also did the original series, they also did lots of moe anime like YuruYuri, Koihime Musou, New Game, Love Lab, Sansha Sanyou, GJ-Bu, Gabriel Dropout, Himouto! Umaru-chan, Hidan No Aria AA and Mikakunin De Shinkoukei. I’m sure they have perfected the art of drawing moe girls.

Voice acting feels okay with me only recognizing Rikiya Koyama as Lione’s father, Kana Ueda as Yuuko and Yui Ogura as Karin. The rest are Madoka Asahina as Lion (Nene in New Game), Hibiku Yamamura as Nina (Hibiki in Anne Happy), Natsumi Takamori as Mahiro (Miyano in Tanaka-kun Wa Itsumo Kedaruge), Suzuko Mimori as Yayoi (Sherlock in Tantei Opera Milky Holmes series), Kaede Yuasa as Karen, Maaya Uchida as Mizuki (Rikka in Chuunibyou Demo Koi Ga Shitai), Mai Aizawa as Kagura (Neris in Shining Hearts: Shiawase No Pan), Tomoyo Takayanagi as Fujisaki, Akiko Yajima as the principal (titular character in Crayon Shin-chan series) and Atsumi Tanezaki as the vice principal (Mizore in Hibike! Euphonium).

The opening theme, Butterfly Effector by True is a heavy rock piece and didn’t resonate with me. But what I find creative in the opening credits animation is the cut out paper stop motion animation that is used amidst some of the real life backdrop. It is pretty cool and creative. Another rock piece for the ending theme, Baby Bird ~Gakuen Logic~ by the trio behind Lion, Nina and Mahiro. The song also isn’t to my liking but again what I find amusing is the ending credits animation of how we see the trio chasing far and wide after their egg rolls away. When they finally grab the egg and it starts hatching, it pops out another egg! It rolls away and hence another repetitive cycle of chasing it down.

Overall, this sequel is just decent and appeal to those who are very much into moe lolis and cute girls doing cute things. Otherwise, fans of the original series would be in for a shock to have discovered how different everything has become. Perhaps another season to explain what happened in between? You know, that goal Yoshichika and Athena supposed to have and do at the end of the original season? No? Don’t remember? So do I. So we have to thank the efforts of the Logicalists who have worked hard to bring peace between the worlds. That is why we are able to enjoy seeing lolis having a good time being lesbians with each other. Ah, good times. Maybe that is why the Foreigners stopped attacking because they too are intrigued and getting a boner in seeing little girls getting overly friendly with each other. Because f*ck logic as long as we get to see cute (lesbian) girls doing cute (lesbian) things.

Amanchu

November 3, 2017

Initially I gave Amanchu the slip and really did not intend to watch it for the foreseeable future. Mainly because it is a scuba diving theme. Hah. Scuba diving. How boring. Right?! Plus, looking at the promotional poster, I thought some of the characters had this ‘scary doll look’ like that Zatch Bell character. I know, I know. I didn’t look close enough but at that point I didn’t want to scare myself despite knowing this diving themed anime would mostly be a very calming series. All that changed when I learnt that this series is somewhat a spiritual successor to the Aria series because they are written by the same author! OMG! Instant nostalgia hit! Must see this!

Episode 1
Just before Hikari “Pikari” Kohinata goes scuba diving, she smells her grandma boiling pork soup. Later, Futaba Ooki arrives at the seaside via her scooter. She seems depressed as she has just transferred here. As a newbie in the area, everything is new for her. Grandma talks to her and treats her to a drink. She realizes Futaba will be enrolled in the same Yumegaoka High School as Pikari. Futaba is awed by the waves of the sea and it lifts her spirits. Pikari returns and the other guys in her group are so freaking awed by the sea it’s like they’ve turned into a new character. At the point, Futaba has left on her scooter. Next day is the new first term of the semester. Pikari sure knows how to attract attention as she marches in with a whistle in her mouth and lets this strange cat, Aria ride on her head. Pikari and Futaba’s shoe locker are next to each other. They see a fancy card in it. Pikari is excited as it is some sort of map designed by their teacher to make it more exciting. It leads them to their classroom. Futaba is amazed at the beautiful chalk drawing on the board that indicates their seat. Pikari says it is their teacher’s love. Guess what? They both sit next to each other. Their homeroom teacher is Mato Katori as she has the class introduce themselves. Futaba is very nervous. What will she say? She flusters and just says her name. Pass. When it is Pikari’s turn, she starts whistling! Is this her way of leaving a first impression? She needs to get smacked by the teacher. Then she passionately introduces herself including her passion for scuba diving. While the students line up to get their textbooks, Pikari admires Futaba’s beauty, making her blush. Because of her thin eyebrows, she decides to nickname her Teko. In return, she wants her to call her nickname. Teko notices Pikari’s zipper open. She denies it while zipping it up. Teko notes even she can get embarrassed. Teko might still be anxious of the many firsts she will experience but is confident she will get used to it.

Episode 2
It’s going to be a lovely day for Pikari to go to school. Riding the bus, she doesn’t realize Mato is sitting behind her. So she opens the window and the wind messes with her hair. Pikari wants to press the stop button but Mato beats her to it. Mato gets down with her and wonders why she stopped at the shopping district instead of riding all the way to school. She woke up early so as to see the lovely route to school. Then it descends into a race to see who can walk to fastest. Pikari takes a big lead but then Mato has the last laugh: She hitches a ride with a motorcyclist. Is this cheating? Pikari won’t lose out and takes the shortcut through the woods. So imagine Teko’s shock when she is taking a picture of the sky only to see Pikari suddenly entering her frame. The landing is painful so when Mato tends to her, they realize they are both enthusiasts in scuba diving. Now they are best friends! Teko is left wondering how weird Pikari is. With the club recruitment drive next week, depressed Teko believes she’ll join none for the rest of her high school days. That is, until Pikari drags her along to the scuba club. Looks like somebody is already there. Aria? Pikari nicknames it Tea and believes it isn’t just an ordinary member but the club’s advisor. Pikari then explains the difference between the wet and dry diving suits. Before Teko knows it, they already try on the suit. Pikari dives and floats in the school’s swimming pool as Teko ponders how she has been dragged into her pace all the while. But she notes the fun she has while watching her do stuffs. It makes her heart beat in excitement. Teko takes a deep breath and dives in too. Pikari mentions about how the border of the body and sea cease to exist when diving. When that happens, she would like to think they were all born from the sea. She hopes Teko would try diving with her. Those sparkling eyes in her looks of anticipation… Well, no harm trying. She’s already gone this far.

Episode 3
Teko tries to make friends with others but since she is still scared, I guess another day. Luckily she still has Pikari around. On their way to school, Teko tells Pikari she came from Tokyo. Everything is still new to her so that’s why she is afraid to make new friends. She finds it strange herself that she is usually bad with talking about herself to others but yet can tell it so easily to her. Pikari admits she too is bad with talking to others. Probably this explains about her being scatterbrain. Because Teko is still worried if she can make friends, Pikari takes her to a street filled with sakura trees blossoming. She quotes from grandma about thinking to be happy then you’ll forever be happy. Besides, doesn’t Teko have her as a friend? Teko feels much better. The duo are now trying the scuba club as trial members. Mato as the club’s real advisor is waiting inside. First, she asks if they know something about last week’s intrusion. Somebody intrude here. Gulp. Teko is scared but Pikari quickly admits it was her. She gets smacked by Mato. Even more afraid, Teko also admits she was here. I think Teko looked so meek so Mato smacks Pikari on her behalf! Mato starts her first lesson by explaining about external and internal air pressure. The deeper you go, the less air you have in your lungs and other areas with air as it will be crushed. So the key is to keep breathing. But like the ear which cannot breathe, how do you clear it? There are a few ways as Mato has Pikari demonstrate them for beginners. Mato tests Teko about the most important rule in diving. At first she doesn’t know the answer but thinking harder and from the hints she just learnt, the single inviolable rule is to keep breathing. Teko starts breathing and it calms her mind while thinking the new experience she will have in this new town. This in turn makes Pikari excited and hopes Teko could join her diving together. Even happier when Teko calls her nickname for the first time. Teko narrates she was always waiting and praying for someone who would call out to her. She hated her cowardly self who could only wait. But even those feelings became a piece with meaning.

Episode 4
Teko will be observing Pikari dive with a couple of customers, twins Ai and Makoto Ninomiya. She learns of Pikari’s dream to become a full fledge diving instructor one day. Teko observes how everyone checks each other’s gear before diving into the sea. She talks to Pikari’s grandma and learns that the visibility of the sea at this time of the year isn’t good. She gets worried but luckily Pikari and co return safely. They swap their tanks and go back for another round. When they’re done, they start washing their gear. Pikari is embarrassed to see she left her panties out. She tries to telepathically communicate with Ai about letting her have it (since she doesn’t want to Makoto to know about it). Not that she understands but she allows it. Then it turns out to be a head hood for diving. Pikari frantically calls grandma for the customer’s number. Teko will have her first dive at the school’s swimming pool. Pikari and Mato will dive with her. After putting on the full gear, of course it feels heavy but it won’t be once she starts diving. Teko finds she is floating and it proves that the buoyancy works. After a while and a few dives, Teko can’t help emerge since she is not used to water getting into her mask and panicked. It also causes her a bit of breathing difficulties. Although she remembers Mato’s lesson on how to clear it, the water quickly seeps back in. This makes her scared and lose motivation. She wants to get out but Pikari continues to believe she can do it. If she doesn’t try, she’ll never do it. But Teko continues to remain scared so Pikari calms her down she is here with her. They go back underwater and Pikari helps her get rid of the water seeping and this gives Teko her confidence back. They manage to dive to the deeper end of the pool. When they return to the surface, Pikari is very happy they did it together. But when Teko tries to leave the pool, she has no strength because the suit has absorbed water and has become heavier. Time to work on those muscles.

Episode 5
Teko’s muscles were aching since but has recovered. They are expecting to do more scuba diving but Mato tells them to go job and build some muscles. I suppose Teko needs lots of practice. She’s slow and even catching her breath. Pikari runs ahead first and bumps into the twins. Ai is impressed with Pikari as an instructor and even wants her to join the diving club. Pikari remembers they are the senior members Mato told them whom they have never met yet. When Pikari tries to tell them this and Makoto reminding Ai that the club has already 2 new members, Ai starts to beat him up! She will not forgive those members for trespassing the club! Oh sh*t. By the time Teko catches up, Pikari fears things will get worse so she takes her away to explain. Ai remains stubborn she won’t meet her new members. When Mato says they are nearby, she runs off to find them! Teko and Pikari arrive to explain themselves so Makoto tells them to go home and won’t be blamed. Too late. That monster has returned! RUN!!! Hey, Teko is running pretty fast this time. Eventually Ai catches up and realizes who they are. How will the showdown end? Pikari prostrates herself and apologizes. Teko explains how Pikari brought her to the club that sparked her interest in diving. This leaves Ai in a lurch because it looks like she is the bad guy now. Ai might not admit it but you can tell she accepts them as she is going to beat the basics of diving into them by calling their first emergency meeting. In the classroom, Pikari asks straight up if Ai is still mad. Not really. To prove her sincerity, lunch is on her. Or at least Makoto is paying. As they discuss, Ai wants Teko to get her open certification as her first step to become a diver. This will allow her to dive with a buddy even without an instructor. You bet Teko is motivated to do that. When Pikari doodles sea animals in a chibi form on the blackboard, Ai counters that by drawing a surreal version! Makoto joins in and adds some effects and eventually Ai is roped in to colour. It turns out to be a masterpiece. Ai claims this is the first sea that they dived together. Sea of colours? After taking pictures, they erase it.

Episode 6
Today Teko will be having pool lessons with Mato. Alone. It only makes sense since the rest already have their licence. Feeling lonely? Well, the rest are actually hiding and watching from afar so once this is over they will give Teko a surprise congratulation. Teko is scared when Mato wants her to fill her mask with water and then discharge it. She is made to do it many times and it is to help her overcome her fear. Once she is done, she is now stripped all her gear and is told to go swim laps. However there is 1 big problem. SHE CAN’T SWIM!! WHAT???!!! Oops, Pikari and co got busted. So they realize why she is always afraid of water leaking into her mask. So as Mato test her to swim with fins without sinking, she sank immediately! End of today’s lesson. Teko feels down as she believes she is holding everyone back. Mato then suggests taking them for a drive. Actually Mato just wants to take her car out for a spin… At the station near the port, Teko talks about her gratefulness to get into the world of diving. They get embarrassed when Mato comments about their self-discovery and friendship. Teko feels she still isn’t as good as she should so Mato advises her not to take her own wish or ambition too seriously. It’s good if she has it but there is also nothing wrong about following someone else’s suggestion at first. As long as she keeps moving, she’ll be sure to find something. Pikari has found some ribbons whereby they can write their wishes and hook it up along the shrine. Teko writes her wish to dive 150 metres and pass her pool training. It might look simple but at least it is a wish she can grant by her own power. Pikari won’t let Teko see hers because it is embarrassing. What did she write? Her wish for Teko’s wish to come true.

Episode 7
It is the rainy season and the humidity is messing with Ai’s hair. Look at how many pins she has. But has she got to take it out on Makoto? He has more pins on his head… Mato watches Pikari seeing off Teko to her pool training. Then she notices Pikari sneaking off in the wrong direction. She tails her to the train station. Since she is deep in her thoughts, Mato is discovered by Pikari. So what is the meaning of this? When the time is right, the train passes by a lovely field of hydrangea flowers. It’s only for a moment so hope you see all its beauty. So Pikari just got this train trip just for this? Yup. It is the only season where they bloom best. Now that the rainy season is over, it is hot like hell! Is the end of the world coming? Club activities are out since it is a time for students to study for their exams. But the diving club quartet are bumming around in school. Pikari leads the gang to stretch their hands in the sunlight to test its warmth. Mato isn’t impressed so she has them play Red Light Green Light with Makoto as It. In this heat? We see Teko is really good at the game. She survives and wins most probably Makoto had to choose his sister. Not thrilled, Ai decides to play again with her being It. Again Teko is naturally talented in this game. Ai can’t even get her! Finally Mato decides to join in the game. It looks like Makoto and Teko won but Mato throws her slippers at them! Anything the It possess and touches you counts. Was this part of the rules? Mato is so happy with her victory, it prompts the rest to think she is the most child-like among them. So this is a lesson that even as adults, searching for answers can be still fun.

Episode 8
Makoto sees a letter in Ai’s shoe locker. She takes the letter and quickly runs! So when he finally manages to ask her about it, she points out to some baseball guy who wrote the letter. She finds it odd because they don’t talk much so why did he write that letter? She hasn’t read the letter yet but what are the chances it is a love letter? Makoto is shocked to see Ai blushing. So when she starts to read it, suddenly she has this unimpressed looks. She runs away! Actually puts the letter back. It seems the guy have put it in the wrong place and was meant for the other girl sharing her shoe locker. Ai claims she didn’t read the rest of the letter and stopped once she read who it was addressed to. Makoto fears for that guy’s life as you know what his sister can do. But he can’t be worried about him, Ai is going to take it out on him! Surprisingly she did not. Instead she acts cool and deduces that guy must be so nervous thinking about the letter that he put it in the wrong place. It takes a lot of strength to do all that. Ai is glad seeing others putting effort to make others happy and in a way grateful to him. Makoto notes that he is able to see the other side of Ai he never sees. However she returns to her old self beating him up. Back to worrying about her future. Later Ai cleans up Makoto’s messy locker in which he hordes stuffs from long ago including a magazine about diving. She notes worrying about his future. Teko hates the physical examinations. In the hall, she gets separated from Pikari. Because of that, she becomes clumsy during the examinations. So with Pikari around, it looks like she could do it decently. During the 50m race, Teko starts great. Wow. It’s like she can run now. However halfway she loses steam. Like as though she gave up. When it is time for the 1000m race, Teko gets scared and starts thinking negatively. But Pikari has a solution. First they start last and run slow to conserve energy. When the final lap is announced, they sprint all their might to surpass those ahead. In the end, they achieve quite a decently high position. As they catch their breath, Pikari realizes something about Teko. Could it be she is a sore loser? Even so, she is a lovely sore loser and respects her more. Uhm, is that supposed to be a compliment?

Episode 9
Teko continues taking pictures. Each one of them carries precious memories and she sets it up so each time she on her handphone, a random photo will pop up. When Ai suggests a group picture (Makoto is excluded of course – he need to take the picture), the memory card is full. As suggested, Teko should transfer out the data for more space. However it’s not that simple. It’s like the end of the world for her. Don’t laugh. You don’t know how deeply attached and important each of those photos are. Unlike us who keep taking and never once see them anymore :’(… Teko further remembers when she moved here, her friends sent her a handphone strap as a birthday present. Even if Teko was happy, she couldn’t help felt sad because it marked the start of separation. She felt lonely. Teko was a lonely girl who just existed until a couple of girls in middle school became her friends. Middle school? That late, huh. So she learnt the wonderful things of friendship and came to appreciate how precious it is. That is why even with the simple push of a button to transfer her data, she just can’t do it. She gets a call from her diving club to meet. There, Pikari then hands her a present. Ai takes her away to lecture her about suddenly giving a belated birthday present and putting Teko in a spot. Well, we can all hear you. The present is a digital photo frame. She can put her memory card here and display all the photos she has taken. Problem solved. Geez, I thought they would have got her a new handphone… Nah, this is cheaper. Now that she is able to snap more treasured memories, looks like life will continue fine and dandy as usual. Oh, Teko is crying? Tears of joy. You’re welcome. Teko continues snapping as usual. She picks up a call from her old friend. Looks like they have lots to chat and catch up. At this rate, it’s going to be full soon…

Episode 10
Teko and Pikari are at Ai’s house to pick her up so they can go out together. They are at the bookstore to pick out a log book. The designs are too cute and they are spoilt for choice. Then they go buy swimsuits. Once done, Pikari invites them to her grandma’s place so they can have fun in the sea (and probably test their newly bought swimsuits). After that, Teko talks to grandma about her treasured memories and how grateful she is for meeting Pikari. But she feels sad she has nothing to give her in return. She advises about the blinding light when stepping out from the darkness after a long time. But the light isn’t the one making the scenery. Everything has been there from the start. The light didn’t do anything. As long as she doesn’t block out Pikari, she will shine on her own. Later Teko talks to Pikari about feeling lost. Even if she passes her pool test, she isn’t sure if she will be ready. But she is really excited to go diving with everyone. She wonders if she’ll hold everyone back or worthy to be her friend. Pikari replies she sometimes get lost too. That feeling means you are dissatisfied with where you are. Therefore feeling lost is a good thing because is an opportunity. A chance to have more fun. So if you’re lost, then let’s go. Teko takes the pool test. Mato times her. After clearing 100 metres, she manages to float on her back for 10 minutes (this is her specialty?). With that, Teko passes and can now go diving with everyone. First stop, the sea!

Episode 11
Teko and Pikari see Aria walking off a path. They try to follow it but the path becomes blocked. At least for humans. Wondering if cats have their own secret path to walk and that Pikari doesn’t know every inch of the area as Teko thought she would, they decide to have their adventure of discovering new and unknown places together. So as they travel the path less taken, they see a crow bullying a little kitten! Shoo! Shoo! Time to squeal our hearts because the kitten is so cute rolling around! But time to head back to reality because they wonder if it is lost or abandoned. They notice it is hungry. Nothing like the internet to help search what cats eat. They head to the convenience store to buy milk and then go back to grandma’s place to make it. Kitten is crying tears of joy? Of course the problem now is what to do next. Teko’s place doesn’t accept pets and Pikari’s mom is allergic to cats. Oh, grandma can’t keep it here too. They could ask their classmates to adopt it tomorrow but for now, Teko will secretly let it live in her place for tonight. Next day in school, Mato senses something strange when the duo anxiously keep going back and forth from the club. Then they got busted for hiding the kitten there. Mato reminds them about the responsibility needed if they are to save it. Teko starts thinking how the kitten is just like her. Lonely. Because Pikari pulled her out of that, she wonders if she can be the kitten’s Pikari. Of course she could. As they try to look for anyone who would adopt it, the principal (black afro guy?) pops up. He is the owner of Aria and noting that Aria needs a bride and the kitten is female, he wants to adopt it. And since the cats like each other, case solved.

Episode 12
The diving club members head to a beach where it is the holy land for first time divers. This is also for Teko to do her sea practical. After checking the gear, the swim out to the buoy. While getting ready to dive, Teko realizes one of her fins is missing. Is it already over? Luckily a kind diver found it and returns it. Sliding down the rope to the bottom, they see lots of other divers there too. After experiencing and watching the marine wildlife, it is time for Mato to test Teko for her sea practical. From mask clearing to buoyancy to hand signals, Teko looks like she’s got it all under control. Surfacing back up, Teko can’t stop talking excitedly about her experience. Later Mato informs Teko about her sea practical’s result. She passed and is now presented her very own C-card, the badge of an open water diver. Of course, we must have that Teko-Pikari talk with Pikari describing her past self as one who was afraid of love and empty. She hated herself for that. Now she has totally changed and a complete opposite. She wants to find out more things to love and show them to Pikari. Because now Teko has come to love herself, this Pikari means Pikari will love her too. I hope that isn’t in a yuri sense. They look forward tomorrow. Fun for all, all for fun? What the heck. Let’s just go!

OVA
Teko’s friends, Chizuru Himeno and Akane Mizunashi visit her. They are happy to see each other after a long while. When Teko introduces them to Pikari, she is in fact very eager to be their friends. Pikari will be their guide today and guide them around. During lunch, the friends can tell Teko is fitting in nicely and their worries were baseless. After touring a few scenic spots, Teko asks her friends if they would like to do guided scuba diving. It felt like they’re waiting for this moment and eagerly say yes. Pikari calls Mato for it. When Chizuru thinks about this diving thing, she starts to lose her balance. Pikari catches her. However Chizuru feels something wrong. A tingly feeling in her heart. Something uneasy. She decides to hide it for now. Next day before when they go diving, Mato has them sign a form. They are not too pleased they have to fill in their weight… And a contact number in case something happens… Teko assures them everything will be alright because there are 3 certified divers here. After putting on their gear, Chizuru learns from Pikari about Teko’s nickname. She is not impressed. After diving in, Chizuru starts to feel pain in her ears. She stars panicking that she is going to die! Luckily Pikari tells her how to clear it. Pain instantly gone. However, it is panic once more when Chizuru starts spinning uncontrollably. Till Pikari takes her hand to join everyone else. Here she sees the beauty of the deep sea. It is like a piece of heaven. Back on land, while Akane enjoys every bit of it, Chizuru takes this chance to complain how it was hell! But everything was worth it in the end. She then explains at first how she was worried that Teko was a different person than she knew. She was jealous that Pikari had stolen her friend away but realizes Pikari is a great person. In fact, she realizes the Teko here is the real Teko. So yeah, it was fun. Thank you. As they leave, Pikari hopes they would come back again. Even if she did not ask, they will. So until then, please take care of Teko for them. Ai is full of regret when she learns Teko’s friends went diving with them. She really wanted to join in. Please don’t kick your brother for that missed opportunity.

ABZU: The Depths Of Calmness And Friendship
Well… Yeah… While writing this, I am having mixed feelings if I am bored or just filled with calmness. It’s a bit of both and that is why I am having trouble of deciding if it is one or the other. But you know me, it can be both. So honestly, this series didn’t really inspire me or anything because I am not really interested in the world of diving (the thought of sea creatures still scare the hell out of me) and there were many times I caught myself being distracted by something else that is not on my monitor. Therefore the only reason why I have this calm and ‘satisfied’ feeling is perhaps because of the nostalgia factor and how much it brings back memories of the Aria series. So in a way you could say that while I was watching this series and in the midst of being calmed by its overall theme, it was more of the unconscious thought of relating all this back to Aria that made me continue to watch this series to the end without complain. It’s like I’m watching Amanchu but my mind and heart is actually seeing it as Aria. Uh huh. Amanchu, the HD version of Aria, so to speak.

Forgive me if you are going to hear me compare a lot of Amanchu with the Aria series. Both series have so much in common but yet they are so different and unrelated to each other. For starters, the Aria series is more of fantasy as its setting was on a colonized Mars that looked very much like modern day Venice. Whereas here in Amanchu, the setting is based on the real location of the Izu peninsula. I believe there is a website out there that compares a few scenes from the anime with its actual real backgrounds and locations. Therefore even if both series had the same calming theme of friendship and overcome one’s fears, Amanchu feels more relatable and realistic as it is set in a real place. You can visit Izu any time you want but you can only visit Aqua and Neo-Venezia in your head. Or rewatch the Aria series again, that is.

There is basically no real plot in such healing anime series like this. Therefore its drive focuses mainly around the main characters and what they do. Hence the drama of friendship and overcoming your inner obstacles might a big yawn fest to those who aren’t into this kind of genre but hey, you have been warned or at least guessed when you read the synopsis. You did read it, right? So just like in the Aria series, the real charm is in its characters as they slowly transform and learn from the bond and everyday interaction that we see. So a big portion of the series ironically isn’t underwater but above ground and on dry land.

It might look like nothing much because Teko for start is just a new girl in town and naturally like everyone who has left a place they were so comfortable with for something new, there are fears if she would find her place and settle in. Well, Teko must really be a lucky girl for finding eccentric Pikari. Thank goodness she didn’t get into any bad company. I know it is impossible for this series since basically everybody are good people. Assuming that. Although Teko still has her fears and worries, she slowly opens up thanks to Pikari’s ‘guidance’ but that is only half of it. You might want to guess the other half is the other people but I lump them in the same half as Pikari. So this other half I am talking about is Teko herself. She gave herself a chance to change for the better. She might not have drastically changed and she is overall the same Teko we know at the start but she is better off in the end since she has lesser insecurities or at least more positivism than before. And yeah, Teko is like the Akari of the Aria series…

Pikari is in the same boat as Teko. But because she shows a lot more exuberance and confidence, it feels like she knows what she is doing. But then again, maybe not. I feel she is like the mix between Aria’s Aika and Akari since she can be cheeky but at the same time an airhead. Teko and Pikari make a great pair not for yuri reasons. They are like best friends who complement each other. Because at this point it is just odd to see one without the other. So could it be that their meeting was God sent? I mean, we don’t really learn the reason why Teko transferred here. So for them to meet each other has got to be the work of God and miracle, right?

The other characters are pretty okay in their own right. Like Mato the nice teacher and diving instructor. Then you have Ai who feels like she was ripped off from Aika because of her cheeky personality. It’s like a running joke and the only thing you’ll remember about the twins is how she loves to kick Makoto for absolutely every and no other reason. Everything is his fault. Kick him. If nothing is his fault, then kick him too. Please people, twin brothers are not meant to be abused like that. If this was the real world, Makoto might have murdered her and dumped her body in the ocean! Yikes! That’s why I say everybody here in this anime are so goody-goody.

Last but not least, Aria. Somehow I feel they want to leave some sort of Aria series legacy by having a cat named after the president of a gondola company as well as suspiciously looking as lame (sorry) as him. Aria doesn’t really intrude or interrupt the flow of the series and is just there for some cute factor, hence its very minimal appearance throughout the series. Though, ever since the kitten joined them in the final few episodes, Aria seems to be hanging out almost everywhere with them. Speaking of the kitten, I thought she was going to be like some sort of a running joke with reference to the Aria series. You know, President Aria was always trying to impress Hime but never gets her heart. Sad. I thought the same thing here because in the ending credits we see Aria ‘chasing’ after the kitten. So it turns out they really do like each other. Well, now it seems the kitten has this habit of sneezing. Is this a running joke too? I’m sure we’ll all goo “Aww…” when it sneezes because cats do it so cute, right? If it isn’t sneezing, it likes to suck on something…

Now, the biggest thing that hit me for my Aria’s nostalgia is the background music. They have this very similar and hence nostalgic feel to the many songs in the Aria series. Especially those gentle and calm acoustic guitar pickings. Oh man. I instantly fell in love with them when I first hear them. These background music are the ones that take the cake and the part which I love the most in Amanchu. I really need to scour the internet for its tabs so I can play them on my guitar too! Even if the guitar style is similar, they aren’t composed and played by Choro Club. Instead, they are composed and performed by Gontiti, a pair of Japanese acoustic guitar guys with lots of their own original compositions a decade ago. Also, there is a song in Amanchu that uses the voice as its instrumental piece, thus further reminding me more of Aria’s Barcarolle. In line with the calming theme of the series, both the opening and ending themes are also calming as you can get. A song worthy to be part of Aria’s theme if Amanchu never happened and Aria got another season. Million Clouds by Maaya Sakamoto as the opener and Futari Shoujo by Tekopikari (Teko and Pikari of course) as the ending are calming enough to complete your peaceful day.

Voice acting isn’t anything particularly special. Ai Kayano is the one of the 3 casts who played a role in the Aria series who also got a role in Amanchu. As Teko here, she was Anya in Aria The Avvenire. I think she did a good job in voicing Teko and make have that sound of insecurity in her character as well as the hope that she can overcome it. It feels like they want to pay homage to the Aria series because they had Erino Hazuki who voiced Akari returning as Akane and Chiwa Saito who voiced Aika returning as Chizuru. No wonder they sound a little familiar. Heck, their character’s names also suspiciously sound related to their Aria character they played… Hmm… Embarrassing remarks are not allowed! No, they didn’t say that but I wished they did. The other casts are Eri Suzuki as Pikari (Chinatsu in Flying Witch), Saori Oonishi as Ai (Aiz in DanMachi), Yuuichirou Umehara as Makoto (Mitsuhide in Akagami No Shirayuki-hime) and Shizuka Itou as Mato (Hinagiku in Hayate No Gotoku). Even Aria has his own seiyuu, Yurika Kubo (Hanayo in Love Live). Easiest lines ever. Shockingly I discovered Kikuko Inoue as the voice behind Pikari’s grandma. Hey wait a minute. I thought she is always 17???!!! Why does she sound like a real grandma here! No wonder I can’t sniff her out! Whoops…

As for the art and animation, nothing really too special. I would like to point out that the sceneries and backgrounds are gorgeous although I won’t go so far as to say they are masterpieces that should be displayed next to Mona Lisa. They are indeed nice to look at but not so much that it puts you in a trance that you really want to go live there now. At least not for me. Oh, remember what I said about the ‘scary doll look’ in my opening paragraph? Well, turns out it is this series ‘Pac-man’ look. And boy they sure have a lot of them. So it isn’t that scary once you get used to it. But it feels a bit odd that they put up this face for almost half the time since Pikari is being her usual idiot so that’s her Pac-man face and Teko is being nervous so that’s her Pac-man face. And yeah, the others too have their own Pac-man face.

Overall, this is beautiful series about friendship but with a scuba diving theme. There are a few lessons you can learn about scuba diving but it is just the very basics because if you are really interested, there are proper channels to pursue. Otherwise the series would be just one big bore. Personally, I still prefer the Aria series over this because of nostalgia and the fantasy setting although this isn’t too bad either but like I have pointed out, I’m not really into scuba diving. Also, Aria had more episodes and seasons so there was time for proper development and pacing to give it a proper ending as well.

I recommend that all of us watch such calming and healing animes once in a while. Because we definitely need some inner cleansing after watching Titans eating humans, females bumming out each other with their bums into the pool, lonely people trying to steal each other girlfriend/boyfriends, high school kids trying to lose their virginity, noisy rock music, warring kingdoms trying to outdo each other and a hell load of other anime controversies that could only be so because anime. So it’s like this series is trying to tell us sometimes we need to take a dive deep enough where it is quiet to clear our minds. Then we find our true inner peace… Embarrassing remarks aren’t allowed! Oh yeah? Screw that because when in doubt, let’s go!

Sansha Sanyou

October 15, 2016

Wow. This cute girls doing cute things trope is really getting out of hand. Every season we have at least one that falls into this category and this season of spring 2016, it would be Sansha Sanyou. It is their turn to spam and add to the ever growing number of series that falls under this category. Again from the very vague synopsis, it generally tells the daily lives and activities of 3 high school girls whose personalities are as different as night and day. This is how they survive from day to day with their clashing personality. In this funny story. Ah, the keyword is funny. You got my attention there. So there you have it. Your cute girls doing cute things without a decent and proper plot for the season. And we (especially yours truly) keep falling for the same thing in hopes there would always be something different. Sometimes we are surprised of something unique but most of the time it would be disappointing or plain boring. That is why the only way to determine if this is just another run of the mill genre or otherwise is to always watch it yourself.

Episode 1
Yoko Nishikawa is eating her bread crusts alone when Futaba Odagiri and Hayama stumble in and join her. The duo just like everyone in school knows about Yoko. Because she is a rich girl. Apparently Yoko eats alone because she has no friends. Before recess is over, the duo tell her to deep fry the crusts and sprinkle sugar on them to taste better. She tries making this never-made-before recipe. She wants to try it out with them tomorrow but they are not at her usual spot. She feels disappointed but then they stumble in again. As they chat, they hear some weird sounds coming out from the bushes. Who the f*ck is this guy screaming?! He is Mitsugu Yamaji and Yoko’s ex-butler. He is glad to see Yoko making friends especially since her father’s company just went bankrupt, he is happy that she is getting along fine despite her pampered rich upbringing. Yoko claims he is exaggerating. Next day, the trio meet again at the same spot. Futaba this time eats an entire loaf while Yoko puts mayonnaise on her crusts. I don’t think this is as healthy as she thinks. Again, Yamaji pops out from the bush, crying in his happiness that Yoko is making normal progress with commoners. Is this going to be a recurring thing? But Yamaji can’t be reported as a stalker trespassing as he is working part time to refill vending machines. To show his happiness, he gives Yoko the entire pudding stock. That made her day… As they talk about their favourite foods, Yoko feels the need to give an answer that won’t sound strange. But pudding with rice does sound gross. Since the mayonnaise answer didn’t quite cut it, she fears they might start hating her. Thus she goes home to make onigiri. However they are just rice without any fillings or salt. Futaba laments she has failed but the duo pick up and eat them. Not bad, right? The trio then go to the public bath. Yoko can’t waste Hayama’s kindness and tries to stay as long as she could but only dizzies herself out.

Episode 2
As the trio eat together, a cat pops out from the bushes. Hayama can’t restrain herself and cuddles it. Hayama loves animals and it is her dream to open a park filled with them. In fact she has a pet cat named Bel. That’s short for Beelzebub, the demon lord of flies?! It seems Serina Nishiyama considers Hayama her rival. But Hayama always outranks her in everything. Even when she tries psychological insults, Hayama will not snoop low to her level and instead Nishiyama herself reels from her own backlash. But what riles Hayama up is when there are abandoned kittens on the roadside! She will not stop to find them proper shelter. She manages to do so for all but one. Nishiyama’s friend, Asako Kondo suggests to give Nishiyama since she had a cat before it died. A life saviour! While our trio try to call each other nicknames, Yamaji pops out of the blue just to tell them to call Yoko as it is. Yes, Yoko-sama. This has Futaba wondering Hayama’s first name. Each time she asks, she changes the subject. Till this girl, Kou starts calling her as Teru. After a few teasing, who is this Kou girl? She is Hayama’s older sister! No way! She gives them sweets to try but as soon as Futaba pops it in her mouth, she collapses! Holy sh*t! Is she the kind of girl who is bad in cooking?! Kou and Hayama go out to buy ingredients. They bump into Futaba along the way as she joins them. They see Yoko tussling with other elderly women for a cheap sale on mayonnaise. Pathetic… They enter the raffle. While Futaba is bad luck, Kou has the best of luck because she won all top 3 prizes! That was how she won the free public bath ticket too. Flashback shows Hayama often gets hurt and sick a lot and Kou was always there to nurse her. That is why she is always trying to make sure she gets her nutrients regularly. It made Hayama realize she has always been worried about her health. However the next day, Kou joins the friends during lunch and her onigiri looks like it is made out of poison! What nutrients is she talking about?! This doesn’t look healthy at all! But Futaba feels bad Kou went out her way to make food and can’t waste her kindness. She starts stuffing down the food! Don’t kill yourself! Note: The way she is breathing and chomping it down sounds horny ambiguous…

Episode 3
Futaba brought her own lunch because she ran out of lunch allowance for this month. She thinks about taking up a part time job and this also has Yoko thinking the same. But they can only imagine her as an arrogant waitress. They are in luck when a flyer flies into Futaba’s face indicating a newly opened bakery. But when they visit, they see blood on the floor! Oh sh*t! They follow the trail and the corpse of a maid falls out from the room! Horror! Then she comes back to life! Double horror! But Yoko is not freaked out and knows who she is. Shino Sonobe was her former maid. Apparently she was making jam but fell asleep while eating. Sleeping with her eyes open? Since making sweets is all that she is good for, thus the reason she opened a bakery after her retrenchment. Sonobe enters a strong emotionless reaction learning Yoko has made friends. She is more than happy for her to work here. However Yamaji opposes and won’t let Yoko work. The former butler and maid enter an epic battle and it ends when Yoko orders them to stop. Since this isn’t Futaba’s cup of tea, she kills 2 birds with a stone by entering an eating competition and wins its cash reward. This way, she won’t go hungry and still have extra money. I hope that person won’t go out of business quick… Futaba and Hayama visit Yoko when she is working at the bakery. With its small selection and mostly female customers, she is able to get by. Next day in school, Futaba and Hayama are shocked to see Sonobe here. She even made a perfect uniform and fits in with the crowd. You can’t even tell if she is an outsider. She is here to share some food with Yoko. It seems Sonobe may have intended to come here all along as she has made Yoko’s favourite mayonnaise food. She hopes the friends would take care of Yoko and continue to be friends. Then she goes off because Yamaji is here to pick a fight with her. Next morning, Sonobe is handing out flyers to students about her bakery. This incurs the wrath of Yoko but she ignores her and continues handing them out.

Episode 4
The trio reminisces their childhood days. Yoko being the ultimate oujo-sama life, Futaba the energetic glutton and Hayama… Something about getting depressed because of the wrong present she got from Santa and therefore the need to work hard even if it is just all a show. Wow. So deep… Nishiyama is mad the pictures of her cat she submitted are not featured in the magazine. Even more unfortunate, Hayama’s is and the duo begin a cat fight. Literally. However they find their cats too cute to quarrel to begin with. Yoko would love to have a pet but I think she already has one. Because when she throws a stick and says fetch, Yamaji quickly jumps out to catch it! Nishiyama won’t lose and desperately tries to take cute pictures of her cat. But you know cats, they literally make your life hell so in her case it won’t sit still. In the end she couldn’t get a decent cat photo. Futaba mentions her hobby is cooking but the rest don’t believe her. When they ask about Yoko’s parents, she says her mom died when she was little and her dad is trying to start anew again. Although living away, he still sends her money for living allowance. On the way home, they bump into this kid, Yuu Takazono. He is Yoko’s fiancé. You know, that kind of promise you make as a kid to marry in the future? Yeah. He is that kid. But Yoko doesn’t seem too keen on that past promise now. When Yuu passes Yamaji, he believes he is superior than this ex-butler and calls him a stalker. Futaba needs her friends help as she goes to pick up her cousin, Sakura Usuda who would be staying here for a week. Does a little girl need so many luggages? What an irrelevant question. She is a woman no matter the age! Haha! Thankfully that is what Yamaji is good for. Yuu happens to come by to give Yoko some high premium Wagyu beef. Sakura suddenly hugs him. He is her potential husband candidate although Yuu is not happy about it. Since when did this anime get complicated in the romance department?! Yoko is deep lost in her Wagyu fantasies… Unfortunately when she tried to cook them, it is burnt to a crisp. Don’t worry. Remember Futaba can cook. The most awesome Wagyu meal ever! Respect. This has Yoko reminisce her mother’s cooking and she feels good as it has been a long time since she ate with others. She vows to learn cooking and invite them over.

Episode 5
While hanging out at a diner, Yoko accidentally dozes off and bangs her head on the table. This rude awakening has her screaming who did this prank before realizing in embarrassment. Now that she has a bump on her head, it will be difficult for her to work facing the customers. Yamaji is seriously affected that his oujo-sama is hurt. After Sonobe tells her to rest, she falls into panic mode wondering how her store would cope. As Futaba teases Hayama to work here, Sonobe ropes in both of them. Hayama is not pleased she is wearing a maid outfit while Futaba wears a different one but similar to Yoko’s. Well, let’s just say Futaba’s size is different from hers… While Futaba is natural in mixing with the customers since she is an oddball herself, Hayama isn’t. By the time she sums up her courage to welcome customers, it is Kou at the door. Apparently Futaba called her here. She wants to give sweets as reward but you know how bad they are. Even a sweet lover like Sonobe clearly stays away! Then Yuu barges in, disagreeing Yoko should be working in such a creepy place. Kou nicely tells him off to be careful with his words or he’ll hurt others. He has a change of heart. Wait a minute. Does he like her now? Or does he like older women? Kou wants to give her cooking to Yoko. Better stop her before she never recovers! However the next day, Yoko is back to normal and filled with energy. I don’t know what Kou put in that food because she couldn’t sleep for the entire night! Nishiyama and Kondo patron the place. Sonobe can sense a great rivalry between them and asks if she would like to work here. But Sonobe is interrupted by Yamaji as they get into an ‘epic’ fight about hiring another weirdo. After they leave, Hayama gives Nishiyama treats for her cat. Next morning, Nishiyama goes to the bakery to get more of those treats. Sonobe misinterprets she wants to work for her and before you know it, she already dons the maid outfit. However Sonobe notes her smile is either unnatural or creepy (but she still snaps a shot anyway). To get that beautiful smile, she compliments her for a job well done. That perfect smile is first seen by Hayama and co. Busted… Since the store is getting busy, the others help out. At the end of the day, Nishiyama has enough money to buy a new camera to take more pictures of her cat. Then she spots Sonobe too. What is she printing? Multiple copies of Nishiyama’s smile! Is she using this as blackmail to work for her?

Episode 6
The beach, the sun and the sea! Too bad our girls are here to work at Sonobe’s beach house. Since Yoko doesn’t know what a beach house is, this leaves the rest appalled over her sheltered life. Yoko orders Sonobe to explain it to her in some ritual dance. WTF?! I don’t even know what she is doing in the sand… While the girls are handing out flyers, Yuu is seen speeding in with his speedboat. He wants to help Yoko with the sales and orders everything from the menu. They only sell desserts so he has to eat all of them. I wonder how long his brain freeze will last. And Yamaji revels in seeing this kid suffer as her serves more. And there is meat BBQ after that too. You up for it? Then Kou comes by and will help out with the cooking. I guess this isn’t funny anymore. Time to call the ambulance just in case. On the final day at the beach, the girls have the day off but they can’t swim and the beach is deserted since there is a warning that sharks have been spotted. Bummer. But thanks to Yuu, they can play in a hotel pool. Yuu thought he could have fun with Yoko but it seems Sakura is here too on a family vacation. The moment she seems him, she jumps to hug him as they both fall into the pool. An ambulance picks Yuu up and Sakura accompanies him. Death has never been this painful… Guess who is here too? Nishiyama and Kondo too. Their cover is blown when Nishiyama goes to retort Futaba fishing cockles out of the pool. How in the world? Is that legal? Kou forces her sister to learn swimming by pushing her into the pool. She barely came out alive and she thought of staying positive that she has lasted this long without knowing how to swim, only to be dragged away for lessons at the kiddie pool. Luckily Sonobe and Yamaji are here to deliver their lunch. At the end of the day, they take a train back. They see Nishiyama and Kondo leaning on each other sleeping. Futaba does the same on Yoko. Since she is sleep talking about food, Yoko gets the wrong idea she could have a feast if she falls asleep.

Episode 7
While walking home, suddenly a boy confronts Futaba. Looks like he is mad at her but soon runs away. They ponder who this kid is since Futaba doesn’t recognize him. After she aces another eating challenge, since each of her win is commemorated with a photo, could it be that is how he knew her name? Then in school, this time a girl who looks bloody similar like that boy, confronts Futaba. She too runs away. Deja vu? This girl turns out to be Sasame Tsuji and Yoko’s classmate. Tsuji is told to meet Yoko at the rooftop later but she didn’t count on meeting Futaba too. Tsuji clarifies that boy, Hajime is her older brother and not her twin. She wants Futaba to stop hogging the wins at the eating challenge. Futaba assures she will beat him so bad that he will never overdo it himself again. Erm… I don’t think she put it right. Because Tsuji feels even worse and ends up crying. Futaba tries to be considerate in her next eating challenge by not taking it up. But since Hajime is here, the challenge is on. Despite he finishes first, Futaba is enjoying her meal. This makes him feel that he has lost and won’t forgive her the next time. Tsuji is in a dilemma to help put a stop to Futaba because she fears Yoko won’t be her friend anymore. So with a lame trap that everyone can spot miles away, she is exposed of her intentions. Time to run away crying again? In school, Tsuji bumps into Yoko. She panics and causes a series of bloopers that ended up spilling her money. More ‘trauma’ for her when Hayama comes by. However she isn’t as bad as she thinks as she lends her money. It made Tsuji feel a little nice inside. She wants to go to return the money and learns Yoko works part time at the bakery. As she spies outside, she is spotted by the trio and ushered in. Though she panics how she ended up in their company, she starts enjoying it. Yamaji and Sonobe are proud of Yoko because Tsuji is the first classmate she talks with. It shows she can make friends without using money and that it is a good thing she became poor. I understand their intentions but they might have chosen the wrong words… Their fate intertwines again when they are paired together for PE class.

Episode 8
Nishiyama and Hayama happen to be at the cat cafe. Seeing each other just ruined their mood and experience. Because of that, Futaba gives a ticket to Hayama to visit a petting zoo. Because there are only 2 tickets, Hayama wants to discuss how to split it. Unfortunately Yoko has to work and Futaba doesn’t like animals (what?!). How about Kou? She’ll be too tiring to deal with. Thus Futaba gives it to Nishiyama. They both turn up and you know sh*t is going to explode any time soon. Futaba and Kondo spy from afar and have this feeling throughout the entire day. However Nishiyama is bragging about her knowledge on everything and Hayama is just holding it in. You know how animals react when they sense earthquake? Yup. Hayama’s limit of tolerating Nishiyama’s arrogance is about to explode. No more Ms Nice Girl… Well, let’s say at least there are no casualties. When Futaba suggests forming a rock band, suddenly out of the blue Kou starts singing a song for the dead! OMG! Yoko becomes so ‘captivated’ that she sees her life flashing before her eyes and almost crosses the River Styx! Then when Kondo eggs Nishiyama to sing, she blows her top instead. Because of that, Yoko notices Kondo has been by herself since. Did the duo really have a fight? Because now Kondo seems to join the trio for lunch. Kondo is such a blunt girl that her honest words really cut your heart. Yeah, she lacks tact. You don’t know if she is praising, belittling or just insensitive. When Tsuji confronts Futaba about beating Hajime again, she spots Yoko with Kondo. Kondo mentions she is special and in turn Tsuji gets the wrong idea and runs away crying. Kondo accompanies the trio to the bakery to get something to make Nishiyama feel better. Sonobe would gladly give the maid uniform instead of a cake. Yoko is embarrassed when the rest clarify her misunderstanding that Kondo and Nishiyama were fighting. Nishiyama is actually out sick. As she is recuperating in bed, she hums a song about her cat. The rest are outside her room. I guess they have to wait till she finishes?

Episode 9
As the cultural festival is coming up, Hayama’s class is taking suggestions on what to do. Futaba suggests a curry cafe and with Sonobe barging in to give her support, everyone is convinced to choose this. To learn more about curry, Futaba takes the eating challenge but for the first time she couldn’t finish it as it was too spicy. Apparently someone beat her to it yesterday: Sonobe. The owner thought it was too easy and increased the spiciness. Hajime thought he could defeat her but he too cannot finish. As Yoko’s class is doing a haunted house and she is commissioned to play a zombie and doesn’t know how, Kondo suggests visiting the toilet legend Hanako. Futaba who hates ghosts is against this but Yoko seems very enthusiastic about it. Before Futaba knows it, she is alone. She gets a jump scare when Nishiyama pops up. Kondo and Yoko soon return. They find that visiting every toilet would be troublesome and scrapped the idea. The festival is underway. When Hayama and Futaba are promoting their curry cafe, a group of scared people are seen running away. What is that hideous thing creeping out from the corner? It’s zombie Yoko! OMG! Her face makeup is so scary like real!!! All thanks to Sonobe’s makeup skill. Yamaji who was once against Yoko being a zombie because it isn’t her character, now supports her all the way because he believes these commoners should be fearful of Yoko! Futaba and Hayama visit the haunted house. Tsuji thought she could scare Futaba and avenge her brother. Since both sides are fumbling in the dark, when Futaba switches on the torchlight, it is that scary face of Yoko! Even Tsuji is freaked out! Thanks to their genuine scream, it attracts more people to the haunted house. Great advertising. Sonobe is unfortunate to be roped into Kou’s juice stand. Then she is made to carry full glasses of juices to her pals. Hope she doesn’t spill… The other highlight of the festival is Sakura’s horrible karaoke. The most unfortunate is Yuu as he is standing next to her as she sings. Can’t get away. Tight hand grip… When Yoko eats at the curry cafe, all the patrons freak out and run away. Even after the festival ends, you wonder when she is going to take off her makeup.

Episode 10
Yoko and Futaba are planning their Christmas party when Kou lets them in on a big secret: It is also Hayama’s birthday. Because of this knowledge, the duo become very conscious before Hayama and it makes everything seem awkward. They plan a surprise birthday bash when Sonobe wants Yoko to help out distribute cake flyers. Cake shops will always be busy on Christmas day, you know. What’s more, if sales are good, Yoko might get a raise. Hayama almost heard their plan but thanks to Sonobe distracting her, the rest are safe to proceed. When Nishiyama learns Hayama’s birthday is on Christmas, she falls into depression! Her favourite day of the year has to be the same day as her rival’s birthday! Hayama is really surprised by Yoko and Futaba surprise. She never thought about it because since celebrating her birthday has naturally become secondary in celebrating Christmas. Yoko eats Kou’s dish and I’m not sure if she is feeling energetic or dead. Next day, Hayama brags to Nishiyama how the world celebrates her birthday but an upset Nishiyama wants her to apologize for being born on that day and taint the meaning of Christmas! The snow is getting heavy and Hayama doesn’t want to go out. To motivate her to do so, Kou built a snow hut. Looks nice. But then it collapses on her. It’s always safe and warm inside… As the girls plan for New Year, Sonobe suggests having a pyjamas party. Yoko will gladly be the host. But as it turns out this pyjamas party… The trio just sit around in an empty room covered with blankets. So cold, so boring… It gets more awkward when they fall on top of each other. And Sonobe is trying to record this pathetic event with her camcorder. It isn’t all that bad since the next morning Futaba has made mochi. But she has made many flavours of it and large servings for everyone. You can have my share…

Episode 11
As Yoko tells her friends how she saw a cat stuck up a tree and Yamaji helped brought it down, they believe this will lead to Yoko being repaid by the cat in the future. So when that happens, Hayama wants Yamaji to capture that moment and gives him a film. Hayama also dreams of her cat repaying her but in real life it gives her a bug? Hayama and Nishiyama get into another argument whose cat is cuter. It is decided they take pictures and their friends will judge. Hmm… Hard to call… I guess they’ll settle for both of them being cute. When Hajime again challenges Futaba, however this restaurant has banned her and kicks her out. Tsuji claims victory by default in which Yoko congratulates him. When he goes to tell his sister about this, she is not very happy. Because they are not close friends yet, this may make Yoko feel awkward. Tsuji throws pillows at him to show her displeasure. After learning Sakura wants to make Valentine chocolates for Yuu, Yoko tells her intention to Yamaji. He is making excuses not to hear it. Sonobe also gets the wrong idea believing she will overwork herself, causing her to fall sick and Sonobe will be busier than ever! Thus she pleads Nishiyama for help and she is not too pleased. But with Futaba and Hayama offering, I guess she can’t refuse. To Hayama’s horror, she is made to dress in a different outfit. Sonobe thought she didn’t want to wear this one and pulled 2 nights straight to make a new one for her! The girls work hard as the bakery is swarmed with customers. But a successful day nevertheless. When Yoko learns Sonobe was sleeping throughout the entire time to make up for her all-nighter, she blows her top. Kondo praises Nishiyama’s outfit during her stint but when Hayama does the same, she becomes embarrassed and like a tsundere. Not used to her compliments? Yoko has finished her chocolates and gives them to her friends. They don’t melt but they’re still edible… Huh? When Tsuji receives those chocolates, she goes into extreme unbelievable crazy reaction. How can she repay all this?! It’s like the end of the world for her. Same thing for Yamaji. Never expect he will get some, eh? Sonobe is eagerly waiting her turn but never gets hers. Did Yoko miss out somebody? On purpose?

Episode 12
Yoko finds the characters of her friends totally changed. Like Hayama is polite and Nishiyama very timid. Kou is a delinquent who wants to smash up everything with a smile?! What’s this? Yamaji is a noble teacher?! Yoko thinks he is fooling around and slaps him! How dare she slap a teacher?! She even dares him! You know something is wrong when Sonobe is a sexy busty lady. Yup, turns out to be Sonobe’s dream. I knew it. But this is definitely real when Sakura wants the trio to hear out her ‘idol voice’. I think Simon Cowell would have died hearing that. They let her practice by putting a bucket over her head. You know how bad she is when her voice echoes within the bucket and makes her stop singing. When Yoko is working at a bakery, an old school friend drops in. Surprisingly Yoko puts up a professional display and the friend leaves her contacts at the end. Everyone praises her professionalism but after that Yoko starts collapsing and panicking, a great relief that ordeal was over. After being chided by Sakura that she lacks feminine appeal (ignoring her singing while eating like a glutton), Futaba tries to change her appearance to be more feminine. Will a ribbon do? Her feminine action is so creepy it gives Hayama the hives. Futaba even turns down an eating challenge from Hajime and he lectures her how rude she is to not give a chance to those who lost to her. With her friends preferring to see Futaba in her usual way, she casts away all her feminine side and beats Hajime in the competition. Here comes Kou thinking Futaba needs to be more feminine and has concocted this poison juice for it. I think she’ll just shrivel and die. Yuu has great news their dads will be working together. To cement their relationship, he thought he could ask her to sign the marriage registration form. Too bad Sakura caught it. And he has to live with her awful singing… Tsuji returns a few boxes of chocolates to Yoko as return for Valentine but I suppose she is a week too early for White Day. The trio talk about and refer to the characters in this series as some sort of animal. Whether it is endangered species, protected species or dangerous animals. Yoko announces she is graduating from bread crusts and will now eat instant noodles. Her friends are sarcastic when they tease how she ruined it by putting in the sauce first. Embarrassed Yoko gives up on it and returns to bread crusts.

Three’s A Company ~ A Friendship You Can Be-Leaf In
That was it? What kind of ending was that? Wait a minute. Try to remember what the plot of this anime was in the first place again. None? Ah well, I guess that kind of life goes on for our friends should be a decent ‘ending’ for this kind of genre. Although this series in a nutshell isn’t all that bad, it lacks something that needs to make it stand out. That is why in a why I am glad that it only has a dozen episodes instead of dragging it out to 2 cours with cute silly nonsense that might seem repetitive and boring after a few episodes in.

We have already been clearly warned on what kind of anime this is therefore it somewhat helps in reducing our expectations of this show. Take a look at the plot. What plot?! Exactly. This series is even more generic than other similar cute girls doing cute things animes. For instance like Anne Happy we have misfortune as somewhat the theme. Kiniro Mosaic has blondes directly from England while Gochuumon Usagi Wa Desu Ka at least has coffee shops and tea shops to go with. Even YuruYuri has that wacky Amusement Club and student council group. But what about Sansha Sanyou? I can’t seem to place precisely what it is supposed to be. So it could have been anything and anybody for all we know. But fortunately even if it does seem general, this show isn’t that all too bad as I have said.

The characters themselves are a hit and miss. While they are not as lovable, you won’t loathe or hate them either. Yes, yet another bunch of generic characters and groups that have seemingly the cliché character tropes. From glutton girl with a black hole stomach to a fallen rich oujo-sama trying to live her life as a commoner to a dual personality animal lover. Well, Hayama’s case may be questionable because I don’t see her really being a nasty demon. She might not be the nicest person but she isn’t seen all that mean either. But then again, she may be showing us her angelic side for most of the time and that might be a good thing because you don’t really want to be traumatized if you ever see her true colours.

As for Kou, I can’t remember anything about this sweet girl besides her deadly poison cooking that could have rivalled Kateikyoushi Hitman Reborn’s Bianchi. But hey, at least some of her cooking ‘revitalizes’ you. Okay, maybe it is like being high on drugs… So if Hayama has a devil personality and Kou’s cooking is more like a demon’s dish, and both sisters have this pleasant outlook, wouldn’t that make them just dangerous? Thank goodness nobody dies… It would be interesting to see how Yoko came to her predicament from a rich girl to a commoner (and if there are other ex-servants she will bump into because you can’t be a rich girl and just have a couple of servants, right?) but I suppose you have to take things here light heartedly as opposed to taking things too seriously. Basically the entire series is about them interacting with each other and other supporting characters. How well it plays out depends on how well you love them. For me, well, they’re rather okay. Hah. Middle ground stance again…

Aside the main trio, I feel the other characters are lacking. Like Yamaji who is just a stalker and Sonobe the emotionless maid who always needs to solicit help and business for her bakery. But these two aren’t so bad and at least provide some interaction and laughs. Because Sakura and Yuu just feel wasted as their roles and potential. So what if Yuu is Yoko’s childhood self-promised fiancé? So what if Sakura is Yuu’s self-proclaimed fiancée? It feels it could have been at least decently developed but unfortunately it turned out to be some sort of minor running joke and distraction. Something that isn’t necessary in the first place but needed because you need more ‘interesting’ characters besides the main trio.

Also feeling a little wasted is Nishiyama as Hayama’s rival. Showing more of her pride and rivalry might have enhanced Hayama’s angelic-looks-but-mean-personality reputation as we see the bespectacled girl owning the resident loser all the time. But in some cases Nishiyama ends up helping Hayama out although at the end of the day she doesn’t top her at all. Then there is Nishiyama’s friend Kondo who is as blunt in her conversations and lacking tact. Could have been another interesting character too if not for her limited screen time. And the Tsuji siblings feel also the same with Hajime reduced to a running joke as Futaba’s eternal food challenger and Tsuji being anxious about every inch of her friendship with Yoko. It is odd that the duo finds friendship among themselves as they cannot find friends with others in the same class. It feels like making a right with 2 wrongs. As the saying goes, best friends are like a four leaf clover. Hard to find and lucky to have. I’m sure the duo fit in nicely here. In a nutshell, sure, these characters add variety to your main ‘3 leaves’ but they hardly add any spice to it all. Looks different but tastes the same.

I have a feeling that food is also a subtle theme in this anime because in every episode you can see the characters munching on something (thanks to Futaba) or some other food on display. While it is not obvious as it is to advertise the food, it could run from Yoko’s running joke of only eating bread crusts (Futaba just devours the entire loaf), the food challenges between Yoko and Hajime, Sonobe’s bakery and the Valentine chocolates (although the process of seeing Yoko make the chocolates is entirely skipped). But seeing all the yummy food, it didn’t make me feel hungry. Is that a good or bad thing?

Art and drawing are also in line with the cuteness of everything. So are we complaining? Done by Doga Kobo who also produced similar genres like YuruYuri, GJ-Bu, Himouto! Umaru-chan, Hoshizora E Kakaru Hashi, Love Lab, Hidan No Aria AA, Koihime+Musou and Mikakunin De Shinkoukei. It is that time again for me to reiterate how some characters look like they are from other anime thanks to their uncanny looks and because I have seen so many animes that I think I’ve seen them somewhere before. Like the most obvious ones such as Nishiyama whom I think is Hinagiku of Hayate No Gotoku fame trying her luck in this series after there is no word if that said series would have future seasons. And doesn’t Yoko look like that Miyuki girl from Angel Beats? Kirie from Girls Bravo comes to mind whenever I see Futaba. Just minus the boobs. And Tsuji doesn’t she look like that sneaky Shiranui of Medaka Box? At certain angles, Sakura looks like a young Rin of the Fate series. I’m sure that I have seen the rest from somewhere but at this point I’m too lazy to think about it. Yeah… If you are a cat person, it is probably a bonus to see cute cats here.

I have this misconception that Satomi Arai was behind Sonobe’s voice. Maybe my ears are failing me. Turns out to be Rika Momokawa instead whose only other role so far is Shizuku from Fushigi Na Somera-chan. Many of the casts are newbies too such as Yuu Wakui as Yoko (Sumire Hikami in Aikatsu), Mai Kanazawa as Futaba (her only other role is an minor extra in Monster Musume), Ayaka Imamura as Hayama (Miyabi in Absolute Duo), Machico as Nishiyama (Sophie in Seiken Tsukai No World Break), Aina Suzuki as Kondo (Shiori in Joukamachi No Dandelion), Haruka Watanabe as Yuu (Kai in Chaos Dragon) and Kotone Kuwayama as Hajime (Ameiro Cocoa is her only other anime so far). Chiemi Tanaka as Tsuji and Nao Natsuno as Sakura are making their debut in this anime. Of course there are some veterans like Kenji Akabane as Yamaji (Arashi in Triage X) and Asuka Nishi as Kou (Shinobu in Kiniro Mosaic) and a few others as minor extra characters.

Both the opening themes are sung by Triple Feeling. Clover Kakumation as the opener is as hectic and chaotic as it can get as lively as it already is. Stepping up that frenzy pace is how the singers sing some of the lines very fast like as though they are rapping. It makes you wonder if there is any full stop in the sentences and if the singers ever stop to breathe. If you think about it, I think it is quite amazing in that sense having to sing for long periods without stopping and still managing to make the song sound cute and all. The ending theme, Guuchoki Parade might not be as crazy as its opening counterpart but it is still lively and upbeat as ever.

Overall, nothing ground breaking and all that unique but if you really love the genre of cute girls doing cute things, you will find this your acceptable fix for the season. Otherwise, just another anime with some hits and misses in its potential and would most likely be forgotten by the time the next season arrives. Like many animes, they shine brightly and leafy green for the current season only to fade away into oblivion into the next. It seems the standards of anime need to once again evolve and provide something different and refreshing if they are going to keep using this cute girls doing cute things genre. Better to have your leaves in different kinds of colours no matter how weird they look because it beats having a dry wilted leaf.

Sansha Sanyou

Aria The Avvenire

September 9, 2016

Wait a minute. I thought it was over? Too good to let it go? Well, I suppose it was good enough that Aria The Avvenire was produced to celebrate the 10th anniversary since Aria The Animation first broadcasted over the airwaves. Wow. Come to think about it, it has been a long time. Feel so old… Feeling so nostalgic. Ah, I guess that is why this is another reason to bring back up this series for one last time (assuming this would be the last one). Those who have watched the series and loved it would have fond memories of all the miracles, meetings and character bonding the series had to offer. Now we get to relieve it again with its 3 episode specials.

Episode 1
I’m not sure of President Aria’s plan in making friends with seagulls with an equally ugly seagull doll. No wonder he gets pecked! As Ai has been promoted to a Single, she sets out for another practice with Akari. So this sets another flashback as Akari tells to Ai. When Alicia was still active as an Undine, Akari noticed her busy schedule. At this rate she won’t get a moment’s rest. Then she spots Akira outside spying. Seems she is here to give Alicia a present for her faux birthday. Unlike on Man Home (Earth), Aqua (Mars) operates on a year with 24 months. This means everyone has a second ‘fake’ birthday. She doesn’t mind waiting but it seems there is change in the schedule that increases Alicia’s workload. Thus Akari hopes Akira can help her practice during this time. At the end of the day, Akira mentions how pathetic and nostalgic she feels about this. The trio used to be together all the time when they were Singles. When they became Prima, they hardly had time for each other. Times they spent together were precious. She doesn’t want to go back to those days, it is just that she really wants them to get together for today. Then a miracle happens. Alicia is seen rowing in front of them. Making it better is Athena is also in the picture singing. Akira then tosses her present like throwing a baseball. Nice catch. The best present would be their radiant smiles. Ai is encouraged by Akari’s story. She wonders if she could find her own friends like she did and those before her. Of course she can. Because Aqua is the planet of miracles. Even their meeting is a miracle itself.

Episode 2
Ai wants to show Akari a miracle. Flashback to what happened. While Ai and President Aria were rowing their gondola, they spot a mysterious cat shadow in the alley. They think it is Cait Sith and went to go after it. As hard as they follow, it led them to some unknown part of town where they stumble into Azusa B. McLaren of Himeya and Anya Dostoyevskaya of Orange Planet who are looking for the same thing too. They know all about Ai since they researched her since they are curious about the new girl at Aria Company. The trio agree to look for Cait Sith together but to no avail. So as they take a break at plaza, Ai notices the duo are training together so she requests if she could join them. But of course. And that is the miracle that Ai is telling Akari. The miracle of Cait Sith granted her this miraculous meeting. Akari still believes Cait Sith is watching over them. Time for her to tell her experience in meeting Cait Sith for the last time.

When Akari told Aika she couldn’t see Cait Sith anymore, she thinks it is because they are becoming adults so the first step is to stop seeing things they see as children. Then Alice brings them to one of the 7 mysterious of the town. There is an unfortunate stone where everyone avoids stepping. It is believed to bring bad luck. Alice immediately jumps on it and nothing happens. She explains she has been doing this since young. Perhaps it doesn’t work on her. Perhaps this is an experiment to see if it anything would happen to her friends? After Aika and Alice leave for their work, Akari gets curious and steps on it. You know what they say about curiosity and the cat. At first nothing happened but suddenly she drops down into the stone! Then she finds herself free falling from the sky above the town! Also falling with her is Cait Sith. She is happy to see him again and wants to do so in the future. However Cait Sith hints this is the last time they’ll ever see each other. Akari is sad but he points out he will always be in her heart. As long as you remember, right? Akari hopes she will always stay with her in her heart. Cait Sith hugs her as they plunge into the river! I think smashing into the river at this speed is like hitting a brick wall… But when Akari opens her eyes, she is on a gondola with President Aria. In her hand is a pendant from Cait Sith proving she did meet him for one last time. Now Akari shows the pendant to Ai and they believe the lights inside it must be miracles. Akari feels that despite saying goodbye to Cait Sith on that day, she was able to see him again thanks to Ai. Could it be the feelings of love awakened this miracle?

Episode 3
We go back in time to see Alicia putting up a recruitment poster outside. Shortly after, she receives her first applicant. We all know who that is, right? On the phone, Akari was a bundle of nerves. The first time Alicia laid eyes on Akari, she was attracted to her and knew she would be the one. In the present, Ai continues to hang out with Azusa and Anya. They vow to work hard to become a Prima. With the rainy season, they realize the Aqua Alta phenomenon is around the corner. Next morning, Ai is ecstatic to experience her first Aqua Alta as the ankle deep waters flood the area. Akari would love to spend the day with her but it seems Ai has her own plans. Looks like lunch and dinner will be on her own… Ai then meets up with her friends. By noon, Akari receives mail from Ai to meet. It seems the young ones have planned a celebration feast for their seniors. Not only them but the Water Fairies as well. Except Athena couldn’t come. As the celebration goes along, they notice Alicia has fallen asleep. She has been tired from working with the Gondola Association and trying to change things for the better. We see her dream how the association guys visit her numerous times to convince her to join them. At first she declines but their persistence has her curious and interested. Though, she vowed to train someone enough to take over her company. And she wanted to take her time to slowly nurture her. So we have more flashbacks of their time together, the happiness and the sadness of their meeting. When Akari was ready and promoted to a Prima, it was time for Alicia to move on as she can’t stay in the same place forever. Her time that had stopped had begun to move again. Alicia wakes up and tells the rest of her wonderful nostalgic dream. Their discussion turn to Athena whom they lament would have loved to attend this party. Then a miracle happened. They hear her trademark singing. There she is. I guess she could make it after all. What a happy end to the day. Now everyone can look forward to more miracles in the future.

Embarrassing Nostalgia Is Not Allowed!
Sniff, sniff. Yup. It wasn’t anything much except that it played very well on my nostalgia. So well that at times I could feel tears welling up and that squeeze in my heart thinking back about the old scenes (although I have mostly forgotten many of them). This special stays true to its Aria-style of storytelling and doesn’t break the mould. Like I said, it is mostly to play on old fans and viewers’ nostalgia. For newer audiences, they might be bored to death and not understand a thing or what the heck this is all about. But then again, this special was intentionally made with such old audiences in mind.

And yes, it goes without saying that they played again all those cool and easy going BGM soundtracks. From Aqua to Tenki Ame, they are very familiar tracks that would instantly evoke nostalgia for those who heard and love their brand of music (like yours truly). It is nice to hear them once more. Even the opening themes are the familiar Undine, Euphoria and Spirale. Ah yes. More nostalgia at your service. So if you think that the music for all the specials are just rehash of old music, there is a new music for it and that is the ending theme, Piacere by Shiena Nishizawa. Another calm and soothing (read: Beautiful) slow piece that is in line with the Aria songs that you have heard so far. And do I need to mention the awesome backgrounds and scenery? Still breathtaking after all these years.

As for the characters, everyone is the same and kind soul like they are on this planet. Nobody are vicious criminals because if there were, they’d be in the wrong anime! So anyway, this special now gives Ai the focus and introduces a couple of new characters who would no doubt as expected become her friends. I guess there is this trend that Undines have to follow throughout the generations. Uh huh. One budding Undine from each company becomes close friends with each other. We can’t have more than that since Aria Company always and will only have a single apprentice at any given time. For the rest of the Undine veterans, some may feel they lack much screen time but with only 3 episodes to spare and they want to bring the focus to a new generation, I guess I can pretty much forgive that.

Despite the nostalgia hype in this special, there is also a small amount of sadness it brought out. For fans, you would know it is very subtle in Athena’s case. Her seiyuu has passed away many years ago and thus you would notice that her character doesn’t have much appearance and if she does, she does not have lines. Besides, her singing voice (even in the TV series) was done by another singer and the lines you hear in this special are actually taken from the TV series. No new recordings for her. RIP Tomoko Kawakami.

Overall, this series only holds a special place in the hearts of fans who have watched the entire series in the mid-2000’s. Newer generations might not hear of this gem and would just go, “WTF is this piece of boring sh*t” but that is understandable seeing there are too many animes these days and so many just fail to live up to decent expectations. Although there is not much of a story in this special, that is where the miracle of nostalgia starts to weave its magic and work on our senses. That is why even though if the plot offers nothing new and no new direction (despite the constant ‘reminders’ and ‘spamming’ about the wonderful future the characters will have and miracles to meet), the wonderfulness of the TV series of the bygone era was there, still in its effect. It may be so too if they ever make more of such specials in the future. Yes, this is one truly miraculous series that has stand tested throughout time.

Pan De Peace

August 19, 2016

Cute girls with cute… Hmm… We’re running out of ideas as themes to insert in to go by with those cute girls. Come on, think of what else we can use as setting for cute girls doing cute things. What’s that? We can use the bread as the theme? Oh what the heck, let’s just do it. Because it doesn’t matter anyway since the viewers would just view this as another cute girls doing cute things bread version. And that my people, is how the short 3 minute anime series, Pan De Peace came to be. At least that is how I think it is.

Episode 1
It is Minami Tani’s first day at high school. You know it will be a good day when mom makes her favourite egg sandwich with strawberry jam. In class, she doesn’t recognize anybody but she notices Yuu Aizawa having mini bread key chains. Since they both love bread, they become bread buddies. Yuu also introduces Fuyumi Fukagawa who is her childhood friend. To commemorate becoming bread buddies, Fuyumi gives Minami some croissants. Minami is so happy that she wants to date her! Wait a minute. Is this a yuri theme series? While Yuu may look jealous, Fuyumi playfully says her heart already belongs to Yuu. Yup, getting yuri already. Minami happily eats the bread. Then she asks if they could teach her baking. What a happy day indeed.

Episode 2
Petite Noa Sakura is so cute that the other girls are hounding her. The she draws her ‘weapon’. A French bread? Luckily Fuyumi takes her away. Noa must have some sort of chuunibyou because she considers her French bread as a special item with 2 attributes: Weapon and food. Minami wonders if Noa is Fuyumi’s sister. She clarifies she is their classmate and went to the same elementary school together. The girls discuss and notice that each drink different number of glasses of milk a day. Perhaps there is some sort of inverse relationship between boobs and milk. Because Noa has been drinking lots of them and is still as flat but Fuyumi drinks the least and is the bustiest. Then they start imagining Noa with big boobs and find her cute too.

Episode 3
Fuyumi’s family runs a bakery and you bet Minami is darn happy to visit. She gets to taste a few of their specialties like red bean bun, red bean bun with cream and green tea melon bread. Definitely heavenly. Minami reveals she tried baking bread once but she failed miserably and they turned out to be cookies instead. So the girls help and teach Minami how to bake together. Minami shows her gratefulness by hugging Fuyumi and then comparing her body’s softness like a bread. I think it’s a compliment. The rest can tell from her looks that she wants to join their ranks. Hasn’t she already? They welcome her to Pan De Peace.

Episode 4
Minami tells her friends about the fabled bread this school sells, ciabatta. It is only limited in stock so they join the mad crowd in trying to grab the Italian bread. The sight of this madness is enough to turn Yuu off but Minami and Fuyumi won’t give up. They’re not going to settle for other bread as they return joining the ‘fight’. Yuu thinks she’ll just go for the chicken curry bread. At the end of the day, they failed to get the bread. They thought they lost Noa in the crowd but she returns with the fabled ciabata in hand! She got it! Like a true friend, she shares it with everybody.

Episode 5
Yuu draws a lot for her manga. When Fuyumi asks about the man seen hanging out with her, Yuu denies whatsoever he is her boyfriend. He is a relative of hers that introduced her to a manga assistant job. Becoming a manga artist is her dream. Fuyumi will support her all the way even if this means they won’t get to be like this again. Yuu assures they’re only at discussion stage and if she took the job, she’ll be sure to tell. She wants to spend them with them now. The girls try to give funny ideas for her story but it just embarrassed her. Hey, where is my bread focus for this episode? No, the consolation chicken curry bread doesn’t count.

Episode 6
Oh no. Fuyumi has gained weight. And you know what that means. Time to go jogging and lose some of it. Unfortunately not even halfway she tires out. She thought she could have some melon bread as reward but her friends resume their jogging and leave her behind. Next day, the friends decide to help make mini versions of it. They ask how Fuyumi’s store gets its named Fuwa Fuyu. It was definitely named after her as she was born in the winter where the bakery was also opened. Once done, they noticed a bread missing. Could the culprit steal a piece? Well, Fuyumi claims she needs to test taste them. The rest don’t mind since she looks so happy. And her face so fluffy… That didn’t stop her to take another one.

Episode 7
The girls visit Noa who is sick. Fuyumi is crying like as though she is going to die! Serious case! They see her sleeping in a cute cornet sleeping bag. They are treated with great hospitality by Noa’s little sister, Ami. Noa is looking so cute that everyone admires her like an idol. Fuyumi gives her drink some strawberry milk drink. She has also made lots of strawberry based bread for them to share. Noa reacts to all those strawberry goodness like as though it is some sort of magical life potion. I’m sure she is feeling much better and will be able to attend school tomorrow.

Episode 8
Noa patrons a newly opened French bakery store, Guillame. Mai Kawai serves her baguette and since she is new in town, she hopes she could be her friend and in return she can have their freshly baked baguette every day. Wow! So when Noa tells this to her friends, the most worried of the lot is of course Fuyumi. So she is now like her mother asking her not to take food from strangers? Next day when Noa brings Fuyumi to Guillame, the showdown between the French bread girls is inevitable. Fuyumi tells Mai to stop giving bread to Noa. Oh, since when is Noa her property? Mai hugs Noa and asserts she will continue to give her bread to deepen their friendship, much to Fuyumi’s ire. She even teases that since Noa has tasted their French bread, there is no need for Fuyumi to supply her anymore. Next day when Noa visits Guillame as usual, Mai is chirpy giving her extra service to put baguette in her bag. But it is filled with baguettes already. What happened to her textbooks? Fuyumi took it. Damn that girl beat her to it.

Episode 9
The girls are dressed in cat maid outfit for their school’s cultural festival. Mai is here to take cute pictures of Noa. She is spending most of her time talking to Noa and ignoring Yuu who is waiting to take her order. Fuyumi is trying to hold in her rage. Let’s hope she doesn’t lose it till the end of the day. Mai surprisingly orders a croissant and finds it good. She praises them as she finds out they were made from Fuwa Fuyu. The other girls invite Mai to drop by Fuwa Fuyu and they would love to talk to her more, much to Fuyumi’s dismay. That sour look on her face… She no like it…

Episode 10
Fuyumi’s worst fear comes true because Mai really did patron Fuwa Fuyu! But how did she find the place? She tailed Noa like a stalker! Mai lets them taste Guillame’s new addition, cod roe French bread. Fuyumi gives good comments about it and suddenly what do you know? They’re talking like good friends? Fuyumi also lets her taste her red bean bread. Good comments too. But eventually it boils down to the fundamental issue that they should be Noa’s French bread provider. Ah… The girls take a public bath and it is a much needed one for Fuyumi who just ended her ‘psychological battle’. Fuyumi admits Mai is a nice girl and they could be friends as they like the same thing. But when it comes to Noa’s French bread privileges, she is not giving in! Always remember the fundamental issue…

Episode 11
Minami is saying how Yuu and Noa are afraid of the swimming pool because they can’t swim. But Noa thinks as long as she has the ‘invincible’ inner tube, she’ll be alright. It is decided to have them get better than swimming. While Minami coaches Yuu, Fuyumi handles Noa. Mai also can’t swim but didn’t tell them. However the chance to snap pictures of cute Noa learning swimming is too good to pass up. As Mai tries to make her way to Noa, her foot suddenly cramps up. She cries for help and Fuyumi is surprisingly fast (like running in water?) to come to her rescue. She even did that with Noa in hand! After Fuyumi massages her feet and tells her not to do the impossible, Mai starts bursting into tears and crying in her bosom while not admitting she is a cry-baby. Again hey, where is my featured bread for this episode?!

Episode 12
The girls are invited to Mai’s summer villa, though she initially only intended to invite Noa only. They meet Mai’s older sister, Mana as she thinks Fuyumi and Noa are mother and daughter respectively! I think Fuyumi will be taking that as a compliment. So as the girls start having fun on the beach, Ami manages to drop by and joins them. Perhaps it is this load of luggage she is carrying. All of them are camera equipment to capture Noa’s moments! Mana has made some bread for them. She also prepares steak as Minami and Fuyumi dance like idiots, cheering their support for meat. No sexual innuendoes here, please. The pain de campagne steak sandwiches are completed and as expected taste like heaven. Probably Yuu has been embarrassed by the acts of Minami that she lost appetite and don’t want second helpings.

Episode 13
All the girls sleep together except for Mai whose pride probably won’t allow it as she sleeps alone. The rest talk about their bread adventures which are basically a very condensed summary of some the, uhm, important bread incidents in this series. All this bread talking makes them hungry. This is when Mai feels like she wants to join them and the rest gladly accepts her. So the bread pyjamas party carries on with the girls eating bread, talking about bread (yes, the mind boggling statement how bread brings peace), their friendship bonding over bread and at the end of it, take a group photo. Peace out!

Panned In Pieces…
Usually food themed animes are pretty decent in my books but very unfortunately this could be the first series ever that actually disappoints. Sad to say that this series is just mediocre and perhaps way below that. There is nothing here that particularly excites me. Not even the breads that are supposed to be the main attraction of the series. Or so I believe. So technically if I don’t really label this series as a food theme anime, would it be okay then? Either way, this series is still bad and instead of whetting my appetite, I would just spit out the bread and walk out of the store. Call the Michelin star food critiques to close this down forever. The only good thing about this entire series is that it just lasts 3 minutes. Short enough so you won’t be tortured further by it unappealing, uhm, everything.

Like I have said, the breads I believe are supposed to be the star of the series, if not the co-stars alongside the characters. It is just sad that they are relegated to something like a cameo and even with their short appearance in already a very short series, it makes it even worse. That isn’t the bad part of it. You know a food themed anime is going to be good when the food itself looks delicious that it makes you salivate and want to take a chomp out of your monitor. This one doesn’t. It doesn’t even look good to dream. So okay, they look pretty normal but that is about it. It doesn’t make it feel any special. Worst of all, some episodes don’t even feature any bread at all. Again, this might be just me having expectations but then if you are going to have bread as your theme, one doesn’t simply exclude bread from any episodes, right?

Failing as much as the bread or even making it worse because they do nothing in enhancing the bread appeal are the characters themselves. They are just generic and boring that I don’t really want to even say anything else. You know, you have the lively one, the emotionless one, the airhead one and the, uhm, other one? Yeah, you can find usually one or more or even all of those in any cute girls doing cute things group. Even if the last episode is meant to be some sort of fanservice because the girls are in their nightgown pyjamas, it is so boring that you wouldn’t even want to ‘eat’ them. Seriously.

I’ll just mention that Minami looks like your typical plain ‘main character’ but I felt that Fuyumi is the one stealing the limelight because of her very eccentric character and her ‘obsession’ with Noa’s bread meals. It gets heated up when a new rivalry in the form of Mai appears. I guess this is the only ‘funniest’ thing ever happening in the entire series. The most ‘happening’ of everything so far. Noa doesn’t pretty much care about their spat as long as she gets to eat their bread. An absolute win-win situation for her as she gets to taste the best of both worlds. Having side characters like Ami and Mana don’t do any better because heck, the series could have been the same and as boring as ever even if they are nameless background characters.

Art and drawing are pretty generic and standard. Like I have implied, they just don’t stand out. Cute, yes. But to a level that is considered a masterpiece? No. This series was animated by Asahi Production who also did short anime series like Himegoto, Orenchi No Furou Jijou, Million Doll, Onsen Yousei Hakone-chan as well as standard length series such as Futari Wa Pretty Cure and both the Medaka Box seasons.

The voice acting is rather okay and nothing distinctive since all of the seiyuus are relative new and/or unknowns. The small casts include Ibuki Kido as Minami (Chinami in Golden Time), Erii Yamazaki as Yuu (Roboko in Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku No Zvezda), Moe Toyota as Fuyumi (Fumi in Jinsei), Nichika Omori as Noa (Yurika in Rokujouma No Shinryakusha), Madoka Asahina as Mai (Maki in Nurse Witch Komugi R), Natsuko Hara as Ami (Rena in JK Meshi) and Yu Shimamura as Mana (Hare in Guilty Crown). This is one of those few series where Petit Milady doesn’t sing and do voice acting. Here, they only sing the opening theme, Seishun Wa Tabemono Desu. Sounds just decent and generic anime pop idol kind of music but even so this wasn’t really enough to wash the bad taste of this anime. Yeah, I figure they even know how to stay away from something this bad…

Overall, although this is not a very bad anime in general because there are a few funny moments and who wouldn’t love seeing cute girls eat bread in a cute way, this series could almost threaten to break your faith in the anime and bread industry. The kind where if the host offers you seconds, you would say no thank you I am already full although deep inside your heart (or rather your stomach) you would feel like you want to throw up a little. Okay, okay. So I exaggerated a little. But bad enough to have me think that had they put in sleazy fanservice and named it Pantsu De Peace, I would have even bought it no matter how cheap and cliché the echhi parts are. But now the bread here doesn’t make me feel at peace and instead feeling some rage and wanting to go to war. In that case I guess nothing really beats pantsu for peace.

Phew… Panting… Panting… If you think you have survived the merciless onslaught of the moe and kawaii factor, be warned and do not even rest yet. For it is not over. Because there is more I tell you. You will be left to fear for your lives again. That is right. There is a second season of it. Horror! So if you have survived the extreme asphyxiation and heart tightening condition as well as managed to overcome all other similar syndromes and side effects, it is time for a second round of it. Still not dead? Still able to breathe? Good. Now proceed to watch the next season of Gochuumon Wa Usagi Desu Ka S2. Are you sure you can handle it? I can see you in cold sweat. I can feel that shiver down your spine. I can sense that you are thinking if your life is worth risking to watch another dozen episodes of it. I know that once bitten twice shy, never scared of the dark till you have seen a ghost. Think hard. Think carefully. Make a wise choice. If you can’t go through another punishing phase of moe and kawaii lolis doing nothing except whatever they do make everything look extremely cute, then this is your chance of turning back and get out of this moe hell. This is your final warning. Quit while you still can. No? You say you are up to it after all that toughening and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? Hehehe… Then get ready then for another season of cute girls doing cute things. You are crossing the line of no return…

Episode 1
Cocoa is bugging to take pictures of Chino and Rize so she could send them home to her mom. However Chino is being very shy and always gives her the slip. In actual fact, she does not have the confidence to smile like Cocoa. Cocoa now takes Chiya and she is very eager and posing in every way. Then there is Sharo too. She got duped into being taken a few shots during work. Cocoa then goes back to plead for a nice shot of Chino. Rize suggests they take a shot together. But both their faces turn out gloomy! It looks funny enough for Chino to smile. But Cocoa has left the building and missed this opportunity. She brings back Chiya for support. Chiya’s posing has Cocoa laughing so Cocoa definitely didn’t miss this shutter chance. But her smile turns out more of a mock smirk. The girls go through the magazine that reviews eateries. It seems that every other eatery in town has an article except for Rabbit House. Chiya is shocked that Fleur du Lapin has a bigger article than Amausa despite saying she doesn’t mind starting small. Then they realize maybe a reason why Rabbit House doesn’t have an article… No customers! Thank goodness here comes Aoyama as their saviour. They further look through the magazine and even spot an article on Cocoa’s family bakery in the outskirts. Yeah, definitely a conspiracy to leave out Rabbit House. When Aoyama takes a seat, the chair breaks apart! Could it be this place is so old that journalists even avoid it? Sharo tries to comfort Chino that all the marks and scratches tell a story till she hears they are clumsy scrapes and abrasions by Cocoa! Rize thought the phone call means another customer. But it turns out to be her dad who is willing to send his guys over as customers if they have no business! Chino is still having trouble smiling so Cocoa cheers her up with some good news she heard from Chino’s dad. In the next magazine, Rabbit House is featured. This makes Chino smile and Cocoa snaps it right.

Episode 2
Late into the night, a pale Sharo seeks shelter at Rabbit House. Seems her place is haunted! She heard movements in the attic and sometimes when she gets back, there is a pile of leaves! I don’t think the duo are making her feel any better speculating what kind of ghost it is. A rabbit ghost? That’s scarier at least for Sharo. Rize is ready to help exorcise the ghost. Chiya is upset Sharo didn’t seek her help. Well, she did. Notice the miscalls? Heavy sleeper… The ghost turns out to be a stray rabbit living in her attic. So are those leaves supposed to be rental payment? Hey wait. Aren’t those the herbs Sharo is growing? Chino thought of going to the exorcism as it would help her get better at talking to people. Cocoa supports her and will man the cafe alone. But what scares Chino the most isn’t the ghost but leaving the cafe all to Cocoa. Since they feel bad letting the stray rabbit go, it is decided Sharo keeps it and to help overcome her rabbit phobia. After suggesting a few names, they call it Wild Geese. Chino comes in full exorcism gear. Too late. The matter is resolved. Wild Geese is a bad delinquent because it spits on Tippy! Sharo makes a cardboard house for it but since she is too shy to admit, she says it is her own house. Chino and Cocoa pay Rize a visit since she sprained her ankle. They thought they would be greeted by maids but see MIB agents! Fortunately they are pretty nice people with perfect manners. Chiya and Sharo are working temporarily here as maids because Sharo felt bad when Wild Geese jumped on Rize and caused her sprain ankle. Cocoa accidentally breaks an old telescope. She will use Rabbit House as collateral?! I guess to clear her conscience, Rize has her work here as maid to ‘clear her debt’. Rize feeling bored, decides to show her room with gun collections. They thought an enemy has entered but it is Sharo serving tea. But the jump scare has her spilling it all over Rize. An excuse for her to dress up as a maid and play along with the rest. They take turns playing lord of the house and the others serve her. Rize is embarrassed when she realizes her father has been watching her.

Episode 3
Cocoa and Chiya see Chino and her friends looking around town for things to sketch for their drawing competition. Since cafe is suggested, they head to Fleur du Lapin to sketch the building. I’m sure they know pretty much about nothing about sketching as they don’t know what those big art terms mean and they’re just posing for the sake of looking like pro sketchers. Sharo must be wondering what the heck these girls are doing. Back at Rabbit House, they seek Rize’s advice. She draws a surreal picture of Tippy and this makes Cocoa jealous since she is supposed to be their ‘teacher’. So they sketch some other stuffs which later become pictures hung up on Rabbit House’s walls. The most eerie ones are those sketches of Sharo since her cafe was too hard to draw… I think somebody is a Picasso prodigy… Chino and friends are also practising for an interpretive dance contest but they haven’t come up with a song or choreography. I don’t think Moonwalking is any original. Chino then plays a tape that belongs to her father. This calm song motivates their body to move on their own. Thinking how magical this ballet song is, this is what they’ll do and since Megu’s mom is a ballet teacher, they’ll seek lessons from her. Of course it is going to take lots of discipline and stamina for them to learn the basics but they’re getting the hang of it. Chino even practises walking tiptoe at Rabbit House and this causes Cocoa to panic thinking she has grown taller. Chino is surprised Cocoa is making herself at home while watching them at practice. Actually she is here to bring them lunch and she got curious in trying out a move and crammed her legs. With the good food, it hit them their dance theme should be cafe. Cocoa sees it as some sacrificial ritual. When Rize visits, she sees Cocoa taking ballet lessons! When Sharo and Chiya visit, they see Rize taking ballet lessons too! I guess you know what’s coming. Surprisingly, these girls fare better than Chino and friends. Megu’s mom would love for them to join as they have potential but they site they are busy with a part time job or no money (Sharo). Maya notices Megu enjoying herself a lot in practice. Usually she gets embarrassed of dancing in front of people and quit. She can see how she sparkles in ballet. Although still needing more practice, Chino is graceful and elegant in her feet work back at Rabbit House. Practice makes perfect. Or at least almost.

Episode 4
Everyone heads to the cafe for an afternoon tea. Chino and her friends try to observe the rest so they could imitate and become a proper lady. Even when it comes to eating their cakes, they continue to observe. But no hot dogs like Sharo is eating, so how? Cocoa and Chiya sense they are being observed so they simply talk about scientific stuffs just to look intelligent. When Aoyama stops by, they ask her opinion so she suggests eating like normal. They think what constitutes normal is different between them so Aoyama thinks she might be abnormal. Then Aoyama heads over to Cocoa’s table and blurts out she is observing them on the little one’s behalf. Trying to sound smart again, eh? The little ones even get up and follow Rize to the toilet and that is when she discovers their intention. She tells them the important thing is to enjoy the meal because manners only exist so everyone can have a good time. Cocoa tries her best to become a better big sister to Chino but the latter is being modest about it. Next morning, Chino is shocked that Cocoa is acting strangely and different. Well, she tried to make toast for her but it’s still burnt. Cocoa is even hardworking and ushering customers in elegantly. Could she be an imposter? Chino tries to act all cute so she couldn’t resist hugging her but it didn’t work. It makes Chino feel insulted too. When Rize’s worst fear of Cocoa collapsing due to working comes true, they learn she is doing so because her elder sister is coming to visit. She wants to put up a good impression. So everyone tries to help train her and this includes acting like dumb employees (which is so painful to watch) and acting like her little sister (which is pointless no matter how you see it). They noticed Cocoa’s cafe latte art has improved gradually and when she is going to show off her 3D latte art, it turns out to be Tippy in a cup. On the day Cocoa’s sister, Mocha is supposed to arrive, Cocoa is frozen with anxiety. Hello, Earth to Cocoa…

Episode 5
The anxiety is going to kill Cocoa since Mocha is supposed to be here hours ago. So she rushes out to find her but got a little distracted in taking snapshots of a bunny. She bumps into Sharo and Chiya and enlists their help. As for how to describe her, she has got to be more specific than saying her sister is female… She tries an impersonation but isn’t that just herself? Mocha is already in town. Just that she got distracted chasing a stray rabbit. She ends up talking to Aoyama about visiting her little sister who rarely comes home. It has been a year since she last saw her. Mocha enters Rabbit House wearing a disguise in hopes of surprising Cocoa. But she is nowhere to be seen and her suspicious actions of looking around has Rize wonder if she is a spy or smuggler. She stands up in disapproval when the toast she ordered is not to her standards. She takes out a bag of flour to show how it is done but Rize thinks it is drugs and that she is really a smuggler. She is ready to jump into action but all that simmer down when Mocha reveals herself. She knows about them because Cocoa often sends photo back to her. All goofy ones… Rize is embarrassed with Mocha’s smothering but Chino accepts it like as though it’s the comfort of her mom. Mocha offers to help out working here and the duo are blown away by her reliable aura unlike a certain unreliable sister… Mocha teaches the duo to bake bread and they get along very well. Cocoa and the rest watch outside and they can’t help notice how sisterly the trio look. It brings Cocoa to tears because it’s like as though Mocha is stealing away her big sister position! When Cocoa enters disguised to surprise her, it seems everyone can tell who she is. Cocoa revels in seeing her sister again but realizing her friends are watching and this makes her emotional reunion embarrassing, she puts up a tough act acting like the big sister around. Mocha relays the good news she will be staying at Rabbit House for a few days. She is impressed with Cocoa’s improvement in latte’s art. Till Rize reveals she slacks in all other areas. As the sisters retire to their room, Chino brings coffee but sees them sleep leaning on each other. They look so sisterly so it tempts her to try out and sleep with them.

Episode 6
Flashback shows Cocoa used to imitate everything from Mocha. Now, she thinks of surprising her by waking up early and making her breakfast. Looks like she is beaten. Then it turns into a cooking competition to see who can win Chino over. Mocha hangs out with Cocoa and her friends. Cocoa is scared that Mocha’s hugging spree means she is trying to turn her friends into her little sisters! After picnic, they go for a boat ride-cum-race. Rize can tell Chiya is bothered. Seems she is the only one who didn’t get Mocha’s hug. When Cocoa is down that she has never beaten her sister before, Sharo slaps her for being a coward and if this is the version she wants Chino to see. Cocoa’s eyes are opened as she gets enough power to paddle. She did zoom past Mocha but Chiya’s extreme last minute strength beat her to the finish line. So what is Chiya’s wish? A hug from Mocha! Cocoa starts giving big sister the cold shoulder thinking if she continues to be spoilt by her, Chino would not look up to her. Poor Mocha has to drink out her sorrows. Don’t worry. It’s just milk. Rize brings depressed Mocha out to town. Rize fears Mocha’s hugging and hides behind Sharo. When Chiya serves her an ice cold cocoa drink, it just brings back depressing reminder how her little sister is treating her… On the day Mocha is to leave, Cocoa dressed in a strange rabbit mask kidnaps and ushers her into the room where they hold a farewell party for her. Mocha hugs her so hard I think she could crush her. When Mocha is being friendly with Maya and Megu too, Cocoa voices her displeasure. Chino is worried they are fighting but the rest assure that is how the sisters communicate. Cocoa has also brought Aoyama to the party. Mocha becomes nervous and seeks her autograph on her rolling pin? I don’t know how she could blunder and run out of space to sign. In the evening, Cocoa sees off Mocha at the train station. Mocha hopes she comes home once in a while but Cocoa worries Chino will be all alone. Or rather, Cocoa doesn’t want to be alone and away from Chino. Mocha observes them and realizes Cocoa isn’t imitating her anymore. She is really like a big sister now. She is glad Cocoa came to this town because the family once came here before for vacation and Cocoa fell in love with the place. When they go back to Rabbit House, it seems Mocha has left a better latte art for them. So impressive that Chino and Tippy would really miss her reliance. Another cause for Cocoa to be upset that Mocha didn’t just leave but also leave with the hearts of her friends!

Episode 7
Cocoa’s uniform is stained. But the washing is broken. Don’t worry. She’ll wash by hand! She’ll gladly wash all their uniforms as well. Sharo can’t stand the way she washes and interjects. With everybody helping out, it becomes a big bubble making activity instead. Chino thought she is being attacked by a ghost but it turns out to be Cocoa underneath the sheet. She gets an idea to wash the curtains too. So everyone pitches in and starts stepping. I don’t know. Don’t they look like squashing grapes instead of washing with their feet? But an hour later, no progress is made and they’re tiring out. They rest and they have Chiya’s special green tea. One of them is spiked. Chiya gets spiked. You reap what you sew. When the washing is done, all the buttons come off! Washed too hard? Even the buttons from the stuffed animals came undone. This makes Chino wonder if they should redesign their uniform. So with a few suggestions and later that day, the uniform turns out to be quite frilly and with miniskirts. Maybe some more adjustments are needed. While shopping for dinner ingredients, Cocoa doesn’t want Chino to be so formal with her. She tries to speak casually but ends up stuttering. Sharo even teaches her how to do a perfect fake smile. But when Sharo calls Rize to invite her to her curry dinner, she becomes stiff and crude. Before dinner, Rize has her friends eat chocolates that were given by one of her dad’s men. Chino is certainly drunk after eating one with liquor. Cocoa too but she acts like an oujo-sama after eating a high class chocolate. Chino is still drunk and acting like a good little sister. The moment Cocoa has been waiting for? Unfortunately Chino goes to hug Chiya as her big sister and then turn to Rize. Jealous Cocoa challenges Rize for the big sister title and while they are at it, Chino sleeps on Sharo’s lap. Finally when Chino hugs Cocoa, Sharo throws Wild Geese accidentally hitting Chino’s head, bringing her back to her senses. She is very embarrassed on what she has done and claims she has been acting all the while. After their curry dinner, Sharo has packed lots of curry leftovers for Rize. Since Sharo ate most of the chocolates that contained caffeine, it is her turn to become drunk. And she’s going wild! This party is just getting started!

Episode 8
The first biggest problem ever?! Because Chiya is crying that she had a fight with Cocoa! This is serious! Confiding with Sharo, it seems it stems from their talk of how their class reshuffles the students each year. There is a chance they might end up in different classes and Cocoa hinted she didn’t mind. How vague… Sharo talks this to Rize and Chino. Although they feel it is nothing to worry about but just for collateral, they go to buy stationery as charm for the new semester. On the way back, they see Chiya looking very dreadful. She has been given the ultimatum by Cocoa to meet at the park! The girls hide behind the bushes as they hear Chiya explain to Cocoa. Cocoa is freaking surprised to learn about the class reassignment. She thought Chiya was worried about being a big sister! Then they drink coffee so that Tippy could read their future. They’ll receive their just desserts tomorrow. I think they took it literally and ate some snacks but got stomach discomfort. So the rest now has to intervene that even if they are put in different classes, it is not the end of the world. They can still chat with each other during break. With that, they become positive and look forward to just about anything. We don’t even know why this ‘fight’ started anymore… Next day, Cocoa and Chiya have to seek help from the rest to finish their homework or else they’ll start the next semester in supplementary classes. This must be their just desserts. After school, Maya quickly leaves to go tail Rize. She thought Rize’s sharpness has her found out but actually it was just a rabbit. Seems Maya wants to learn how to tail others so Rize teaches her and their first target is tailing Aoyama. Unknown to them, Sharo is tailing the duo. When Aoyama stops at a shop, she can’t help notice Sharo hiding in the corner and starts observing her. The three-way observation never moved… Till Sharo gets up and realizes she is late for her shift. Aoyama goes after her but trips. Rize and Maya help her up but are told to quickly follow her. Unknown to them, Chino and Megu are tailing them. Likewise, Cocoa and Chiya. This pair is in a full detective getup and they’re sweating like hell. Rize learns that Maya is worried about her friends drifting apart after graduating from school. That is why she thought of taking action. This touching scene has all the stalkers get out from their hiding place and reassure her it would be okay. Nobody noticed Aoyama was spying on them nearby? Looks like nobody noticed Tippy spying from afar and that mascot too didn’t realize Chino’s dad is also spying on him because he left Rabbit House unannounced.

Episode 9
Chino has always thought there was some rivalry between Rabbit House and Amausa but since Chiya doesn’t know anything about it, could it be just Chino’s grandpa’s misunderstanding? Cocoa and Rize talk to Sharo to find out about their past since she is Chiya’s childhood friend. Since she can’t remember, Aoyama explains and will even write it down! Eventually Rize deduces that old rivals become new friends in today’s age. When they go back to Rabbit House, Tippy is in battle mode ready for kamikaze! He barges into Amausa to take on Chiya who isn’t sure what is going on but plays along. It stops when Chino intervenes. They learn both their establishments once served coffee amitsu as joint promotion. So I guess there were some sore feelings between their grandparents when their coffee or tea weren’t praised as good as the other. As part of her school’s assignment, Chino works part time at Amausa for 3 days. It isn’t the kimono that makes her feel uneasy. Having nothing sitting on her head does. No Tippy? Anko will do. Similarly, Maya is working at Rabbit House while Megu is at Fleur du Lapin. Chino is introduced to Chiya’s grandma who is quite strict especially learning Chino is that old dude’s granddaughter. Chiya thought she could make Sharo jealous that they have a new employee. But Sharo knows who she is and also teases her back. Chiya actually starts pouting with jealousy! She also feels down that this could mean there is no appeal for her to work at Amausa. Tippy calls Chino during the break to get more info but grandma comes in to give her snacks. Despite her harsh words calling Chino a glutton, she’s a pretty nice lady if you think about it. Tough love? Tsundere? Chino enjoys the snacks and hangs up before grandpa starts calling her a traitor. Chiya left a note to Sharo that she would love to work at Fleur du Lapin with her. So Sharo misunderstood it and lets her wear her uniform. Chino deduces the uniform she is wearing was meant for Sharo. Sharo’s happiness is short-lived when a button pops into her face. I think the chest area is a little bit too small for Chiya, don’t you think? Time for Sharo to blow her top. Forget about working at Fleur du Lapin. Give back her uniform! When Chino sends a picture of her and Chiya so sisterly-like, Cocoa goes into a jealous rage and sends a picture of her, Rize and Maya being even more sisterly.

Episode 10
Rize excels in all sports activities as she notices Sharo supporting her among the wild fan girls. The other girls think Sharo wants to join in so this has Aoyama relive her younger days in clubs. She was in the literature club and always had a junior pestering her about deadlines. Rize invites Sharo to become her assistant in the clubs she’ll be filling in. We see Sharo become her PA in various club activities. She hears others compare her to a legendary person that led numerous clubs to victory with questionable offhand advice. She is only known as Midori or Miss Emerald. In a bid to find her identity, the duo had to participate in each club’s challenges. But even so, they get nothing much out of it except she might be from the literature club and had a habit of mingling with other clubs that her junior had to drag her back. Hmm… Sounds familiar… When Cocoa asks Aoyama for her real name, suddenly a furious woman comes in to look for her. Instantly Aoyama hides under the table! That is her editor as she is here to drag her back for missing the deadline. Oh, she calls her Midori… Could it be? When Cocoa wants to play with Chino, she is pretty much preoccupied with her bottle ship building. What about going bug catching with Rize then? Her men tell her that she is busy for today and will not be available. Cocoa bumps into Aoyama running away from her editor. She is desperate enough to cook a story that they bumped into each other and switched bodies! Not buying it! Next morning, Cocoa wakes up to find everybody gathered outside Rabbit Cafe. They’re going camping at the mountains. Didn’t she get Rize’s invitation? What invitation? Oh no… Cocoa feels so upset that nobody wants to play with her that she locks herself in her room. It isn’t the postal system that is bad. She did get the invitation card but it was in her pocket and she didn’t read it. So it is going to take a lot of coaxing to get that fuming girl out. And when regretful Chino is about to do her part, Cocoa bursts out all dressed up for the camp. She was just trolling everybody and was never mad in the first place. Gotcha! Chino feels this is her first time away from time and can’t help feel anxious if she would enjoy the great outdoors.

Episode 11
The girls look all geared up for their camping trip. Nothing could go wrong, right? Till Rize finds out their food provisions are empty! Time to go survival hunting? Can these girls do it? So they try fishing and despite being amateurs, they reel in quite a haul. Only Chino has not caught any so Cocoa offers to give her aura of support and instantly she caught one. Chino not amused… Chiya and Megu are tasked to find mushrooms but all they find are poisonous ones! When Chino’s straw hat is blown away and floats down the river, she tries to go get it back. Although successful, before she knows it, she is trapped on a sandbar. To think that she didn’t even know how to swim. She signals to the rest for help but they think she’s just waving. Until Rize swims there to bring her back. Chino gets scolded by Cocoa for being reckless and that she is more important than any fish or straw hat. Wow. Cocoa sounding like a big sister for real for once. But she blames her the most for not keeping her eyes on her. Sharo thinks Maya is drowning and saves her. But Maya was just swimming. All the girls start splashing at each other. Chino reflects on Cocoa’s scolding. But her patting was full of warmth. Cocoa and co fend off zombies but get eaten! Megu and Maya are the only ones left as they tell Chino who just awakened from her dozing. Megu then transforms into a zombie and this scares the hell out of Chino. See how she hops like mad in her sleeping bag! Outside, she sees Cocoa and co doing BBQ and looking fine. What about the zombies? Then she gets horrified upon seeing blood on their face that she faints. I guess the ketchup prank went too far.

If you’re wondering why they are camping instead of staying at the cabin, it seems somebody sabotaged the electricity. After dinner, Sharo is already drunk on caffeine so everyone starts spinning around the campfire so fast that they might even lift off. When everyone lets go of their hands, they flew a few metres back. Sharo had so much fun that she hugs Rize. When a shooting star is seen, Chino immediately makes a wish for all of them to have fun again. Sounds embarrassing but not so like the others. Cocoa’s surpassing of Mocha, Chiya’s globalization of Amausa and Sharo’s stomach full of melon bread. But that is nothing compared to Rize’s grudge wish for the person who sabotaged their trip to get what is coming. Hey, all is not that bad since they get to see the stars. Rize’s dad suddenly his drink spills on him by itself. Well, we know the perpetrator now. He needs a new drink so Chino’s dad wants him to pay up. Rize’s dad challenges him to a blowgun contest. It got so intense that their shots look like shooting stars. Chino goes to return Cocoa’s straw hat and thank her. But she is already asleep. Revenge time: Snap a picture of her sleeping face. Next morning, everybody paints their face with ketchup to scare Cocoa as penalty for falling asleep first. It is sweet revenge for Chino when she gets to scare the daylights out of her. See how fast she hops in the sleeping bag.

Episode 12
The photos from the camp are ready. There is one picture of Cocoa in a very elegant pose. Cocoa herself didn’t realize it was her! So different? Chino has caught the photo bug and she is now interested in snapping photos of everybody in their daily natural action. If only Cocoa didn’t try so hard and ruin it because she becomes stiff and clumsy inside her shots. Cocoa stumbles upon a Ciste map behind a picture frame. The rest mentions how they played this game a few times before (basically a map that leaves clues to let others find your hidden treasure). Cocoa gets ‘jealous’ that everybody has played it and wants to play too. Chino agrees to accompany her and brings Megu and Maya along. This game also brings back memories for them because it was the first time they met Chino and became friends. They misinterpreted this barista job as some super powered thingy and wanted to be her friend. Cocoa might sound cool in her deductions but could it be she is just as naive as she sounds? The girls finally reach the final treasure box that contains mini items put by previous treasure hunters. Megu and Maya tease Chino that she has Cocoa to thank for because she gets to play this game again. Back home, Cocoa wonders if Chino is mad because she is going through all the photos and none are reasonably good. With Cocoa being goofy, you know why… Cocoa thinks she doesn’t deserve to become her big sister but some petty girly argument ensued (including pillow throwing) before Cocoa realizes Mocha had sent letters to Chino and she requested her to send natural ones as Cocoa only sent goofy ones. Mocha is happy that she gets letters from both Cocoa and Chino. But she couldn’t recognize this elegant lady is her sister! You mean she really looks that different? Mocha is left panicking because Cocoa left a little ‘threat’ at the end of her message. She won’t be sending her letters for a month for trying to steal her Chino! What?! Megu and Maya make a new Ciste map and hand it to Chiya and friends for them to play. They manage to win and find some adorable items to keep. And Cocoa got a photo of a goofy girl and she didn’t even realize that was herself! Sharo accidentally picked another Ciste map from the treasure and this one belongs to Aoyama. Looks like they have to go play it.

Rabbits And Coffee To Go. Would You Like Lolis To Go With That?
OMG… Oh… My… God… I didn’t think I would last this long till the end. Because it seems yet again I have survived the moe onslaught and lived to tell the tale! Oh yeah! I thought I was about to be doomed by all the cute and cuddly factors that seemed so overwhelmed. Never had there been a break to catch a breathe and it was a continuous assault of moe, wave after wave of kawaii-ness I tell you. Man… It felt like an eternity but the battle to overcome the moe is finally done! I have emerged victorious! Standing tall amidst the bloody moe nose bleeds and burst blood vessels from the overall moe factor, I can stand tall and proud that I have defeated and conquer the ultimate that many has perished along the way. Yahoo! Kudos! I am the legend! Alright! Time to celebrate! And for all those who came out from this barely alive but having your little ounce of life intact, a big pat on the back and a big congratulations for making it. Yeah… Forgive me little exaggeration if you will.

Back to this season, I guess this is what to be expected from a genre that is totally about cute girls doing cute things. You could say that everything here follows exactly the same pattern as it did in the first season. The familiarity is so similar that viewers who have watched the first season would definitely feel right at home watching the second one. It hardly strays from there as everything remains the same like as though this season was just a delayed extension of the first season. So for those who are expecting any slight changes or deviation from the formula, you’d be disappointed. Heck, the moe of everything is already enough to kill you so need I elaborate more on that?

With everything feeling right at home, this means there are hardly and character development and the main characters remain largely the way they are as we know them ever since. Well, some things do not change. Like Cocoa who is still the annoying klutz and the big sister wannabe. She doesn’t have the material to be one and she is a very long way off from being the ideal sister even in Chino’s books. But hey, you have to give her points for keep trying and never giving up. Just like many of her traits, her annoying character is also her good characteristics. Her silly antics are the ones that provide the main laughs of the series. Some may call it repetitive but if you find it moe and kawaii, you’ll never get enough of it no matter how annoying it will be. Then you have Chino still timid as usual but she is making tiny progress in opening up and one little step closer to her dream to become the ultimate barista. Well, keep on trying. Then there is the reliable action girl (although there are hardly any action around) Rize and the prankish Chiya whose annoyance could be only second to Cocoa and could even be her partner in crime when it comes to annoying others with their cute silly antics. She still would do what it takes to promote her Amausa but since this is a cute and kawaii series, this means nothing dangerous like underground mafia and kidnappings. Yikes!

If there is any member of the group who has changed slightly, I would say it would be Sharo. Because I remember this girl has got phobia on rabbits. Surprisingly this season sees her completing the rabbit mascot among the coffee and tea houses with her taking a delinquent stray rabbit as her pet. It goes to show that she is indeed making some big progress with her phobia. Sometimes to a point I think she isn’t really that afraid anymore. Somehow I feel that the rabbit mascots don’t steal the limelight this season. I don’t remember if they did last season but Tippy’s presence is already quite minimal despite his role feels relegated to some sort of rebuking joke just to add to the cuteness. And it still always boggles my mind that whenever Tippy speaks, everyone thinks it is Chino’s great ventriloquism. If that girl is not around, they feel puzzled hearing that strange voice from somewhere. I know rabbits don’t naturally talk but aren’t they just curious? Maybe not. Speaking of rabbits not getting enough spotlight, this means Anko remains relatively forgettable wit even much more limited scenes. Even more disappointingly Wild Geese. I thought that stray is here to stay but after that single episode and being adopted by Sharo, it’s like they have forgotten all about it.

The mystery of Aoyama continues although I believe the other interesting ‘progress’ about this novelist who never seems to finish her work, is we get a little more insight of who she is back in high school. But that is about it and maybe it will take another season if you want to hear more about her. Speaking of new characters, Mocha is the only new one introduced and with her having the same character as Cocoa but slightly my big sisterly and responsible, it goes without saying that the seed doesn’t fall far from the tree. The other so called new character is Aoyama’s editor but she only appeared once or twice and she isn’t anything relevant to our main girls. It’s like they’re trolling us when she first appeared. Could she be a new character to stay? Because now that she has found out Aoyama’s usual place to hang out and slack, I thought maybe it will become a running joke to always barge in and bring her away. But it seems dragging Aoyama away has been going on for a long time stretching back to their school days. Looks like more things are not going to change. Another interesting thing to note is the ‘rivalry’ between Rabbit House and Amausa that seems to go back to when the grandparents have some sort of feud. I’d like to know more about it but perhaps it would be distracting from the main girls.

If one thing that bugs me, I started realizing that Rabbit House, Amausa and even Fleur du Lapin are void of any customers! The place is always empty and the most one or two customers. And that itself is rare! It is perhaps that without the bustling business, the girls are able to have so much time on their hands to go have fun and play with each other. It is amazing that their businesses have not gone bust yet. Even more so, Aoyama seems to be their frequent main customer all the time. It’s like she is their only customer! And I do realize that this town seems void of people too! It feels like a ghost town! It could be this town has a very small population despite the very beautiful European-like buildings and such, but I just can’t help notice there isn’t much people around. Like as though the main girls are the only ones around. Where the heck is everybody? That’s why I have this eerie thought that all this might actually be just one big imagination and dream. In reality the town is decimated in a zombie apocalypse. The girls are dying and only clinging on to this dream. That is why you have Tippy the talking rabbit and the magic of everything moe! Haha! Super conspiracy theory! And then all the moe factor wakes them up in this deserted wasteland. Ultimate shock and twist! Yeah, I don’t think I really want to have this kind of revelation for this series.

This season’s themes feel absolutely similar like last season. So if you wonder why Nopoi, the opening theme for this season sung by Petit Rabbit’s, sound so awfully similar, now you know why. The lively pace of this song with all the cute, moe and kawaii elements bring back those memories. If last season made you go “pyon-pyon”, this season now makes you go “poitte-poitte”. The similar bouncy feel of last season’s ending theme can be said for this season too. Tokimeki Poporon by Chimame-tai has all that bubbly and moe-ness, so much more than the opening theme because we have Chino and her friends doing cute dances and playing rock-scissors-papers at the end that it would just tighten your heart each time you stay and watch the entire ending theme from start till end. Furthermore, hearing this song reminds me of The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s style of music but a moe version. Even more so for the special ending theme for the final episode, Nantoku Mirai by Petit Rabbit’s which is of a slow lovely ballad. Made me want to go Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, Fixing A Hole and A Day In Life.

Overall, there is nothing much to be said from this season because there is nothing that is different to make it stand out even more. It is like this season is made for those who love the formula of the first season and thus those who are not really into this genre will not really find anything attractive. Seriously, is there anybody in this world who cannot resist moe lolis? Oh yeah… Macho guys… *Shivers*. So if this series and season doesn’t let the moe kill you and bleed to death and choking, then at least it will calm you down a little and make you smile. Oh heck. I remember there were very miniscule fanservice in the previous season. There are one or two seasons here too but it is so minimal that you won’t even remember it. Since you’ll be overawed by the blinding moe. Just when you thought the moe onslaught is over, here comes another wave of moe zombies bringing you terror once more. One cup of coffee for the road then… I’ll be ready when the third wave/season comes…

And so it is here. The third season of girls in high tech combat gear, singing their songs while in the midst of kicking ass cute and colourful but dangerous creatures that would turn you into carbon at the mere touch. Yes, people. Senki Zesshou Symphogear GX finally made the airwaves after 2 years since the second season ended. Oh God. That feels like an awful long time. And you know what this means for me. Forgetting a big chunk of what happened in the predecessors. Well, at least the fine details but overall I’m still okay. So what is new in this season? Well, if you consider a new enemy but with the same ol’ goal of destruction and the same ol’ singing technology to defeat them. Yeah, let the music save the world again.

Episode 1
Remember the pod that Nastassja ride up to space to sacrifice herself to save the world in last season? Well, due to orders from UN, they are to retrieve whatever technological remains and her corpse. The shuttle that retrieved it is experiencing malfunctions and is free falling from the atmosphere. It is projected to crash through the Mount Everest area. That is where our Symphogear ladies come in. In this exhilarating high speed action to stop the speeding shuttle, they had to cut a mountain in half! OMG! It is no longer one of the tallest mountains in the world! WTF?! And though it rips through a town, major damage is prevented when they successfully put a stop dead in its tracks. Phew. Thank goodness. As narrated, Genjurou and his team now head a paranormal disaster relief force called SONG under the UN. Hibiki and her friends continue their daily school lives. Kirika and Shirabe are also joining them as they are on probation. Everyone converges to watch Tsubasa and Maria’s concert live in London. Maria isn’t as free as you think she is. Thanks to her part in last season’s crime, she is also under some probation and forced to be a heroic idol putting on charitable concerts for a righteous cause so some parties could save face. After the concert, a series of deadly attacks occur. Genjurou quickly sorties the Symphogear girls. Maria is ambushed by Phara Suyuf who is an Autoscorer. Tsubasa comes to her aid. Hibiki is tasked to save the trapped people in the building that is caught on fire. After that, she is confronted with this witch loli, Carol Malus Dienheim. At first she thought she was a lost child but she then displays her alchemy powers and claims it will shatter the world and slaughter miracles. And there’s this tragic flashback about Carol’s dad being burnt at the stake under suspicions for practising witchcraft. His last words were for her to live on and experience more of the world. I hope she didn’t take dad’s words the wrong way.

Episode 2
Hibiki refuses to change because she believes her Symphogear is to help others and not fight. This only makes Carol mad. Chris faces off with another Autoscorer, Leiur Darahim. After Chris almost gets dropped by several yachts, Elfnein approaches her. She has been looking for the Symphogear girls to help her in her quest to protect the girl from Carol’s alchemy. Meanwhile Garie Tuman might look like a cute goth loli walking around. But be careful. She is sucking the life force out of others! Kirika and Shirabe who were told to hold the fort and not come into battle because they do not have suitable Gears and Linkers to fight, can’t just stand by and watch their friends fight alone. Hibiki continues to provoke Carol by not engaging in battle. She wants to know why Carol wants to fight. There’s something unclear about her being spied on an invasion of privacy but ultimately she says it is a task left behind by her father. Yeah, I think she really did get the wrong idea. Since Garie has collected enough memories, time to withdraw. Hibiki collapses shortly. Tsubasa and Maria escape but no matter where they go, Phara is always ahead. She can summon Noise to fight them. To everyone’s shock, upon contact, Tsubasa’ Gear starts to disintegrate. Similarly, the same thing is happening to Chris.

Episode 3
As Elfnein explains, those were Alca-Noise created to dissect the world. Kirika and Shirabe transform to retrieve Chris and Elfnein. Carol orders the other Autoscorers in the battlefield to withdraw so our heroines can thank their lucky stars they are safe for now. Maria is about to be taken into custody by the agents. She contacts Genjurou and wants to formally transfer to SONG. Although she doesn’t have her own Gear, she cannot remain a false idol in this crisis. Tsubasa also retires from her music business temporary to return to SONG. There is some explanation about their Relics but all I understand it cannot be fixed. With Ryouko gone, nobody knows how to fix them. The only Gear left is Hibiki’s. Kirika and Shirabe’s are not official as it put a lot o f strain on their bodies without a proper Linker and sync rates. Garie kisses Micha Jawkan to transfer all the collected memories into her and activates her to life. Carol believes Micha is their strongest fighter. Elfnein explains what she knows. Under Carol’s orders, she constructed some giant apparatus. One day she discovered it was supposed to destroy the world and fled to try and end her plan. Alca-Noise is originally based on a recipe for creating Noise and it can destroy anything including Symphogear. Thus, Carol’s next step is to construct a giant apparatus designed to turn that power on the world. Unfortunately, Elfnein was created as her homunculus and only ‘installed’ the necessary power and knowledge for the construction. She doesn’t have the specifics but she does know Chateau de Tiffauges is close to completion. That is why she has brought this Relic, Dwerg Dain that is capable of thwarting Alca-Noise and Carol’s alchemy power. Later Maria and Hibiki got into an argument. Maria views her as arrogant despite having the power to call forth Symphogear and yet she won’t use it. Garie appears before Hibiki and her friends. She is going to force her to fight by summoning Noise. But the most shocking thing is when Hibiki cannot sing! Gungnir won’t respond to her and this means she cannot transform. Yeah, even the enemy is freaking shocked-cum-disappointed with this development.

Episode 4
Garie is going to target Hibiki’s friends but one of them mentions not to drag them into this and that they aren’t her friends. It’s just a ploy so when Garie lets them go, they make a run for it. Garie sets her Noise upon them. Before Hibiki can be toasted, here comes Maria flying into the scene (thanks to Ogawa’s awesome driving). She grabs Hibiki’s Gear and transforms to fight and defeat all the Noise. When she is about to face Garie, she is at her limit and reverts back to normal. Garie is so disappointed that she just retreats. Although Marie is bleeding from overstraining, Hibiki snatches back her Gear and screams it isn’t supposed to be used that way. This is her Gungnir and she is the one who is supposed to use it. Wow. Did she wake up on the wrong side of the bed? Well, maybe. She can’t sleep that night since she is in a dilemma about her songs her people so Miku has to assure her that her songs don’t. Her friends even think if Hibiki remembers the reason why she couldn’t sing, maybe she’ll sing again. Maria, Kirika and Shirabe visit Nastassja’s grave and they want to be stronger. Elfnein tells Genjurou and the girls about her Project Ignite. Theoretically putting some alchemy into their Gear to have a fighting chance. The greater the risk, the greater the reward. Alca-Noise is detected. Micha leads the Noise chasing after Hibiki and Miku. When Miku is cornered at an abandoned building, she makes a last plea to Hibiki how her songs saved people and that she loves them. Miku is about to die and this causes Hibiki to become desperate. She starts singing and this allows her to transform. She realizes she was trying to run away from her responsibility. Now she will not. After saving Miku, she kicks some Noise ass and even gives Micha a run for her money. Just when Hibiki strikes the most devastating blow, Micha turns out to be a water illusion. The real Micha fires a powerful shot that blasts Hibiki into the sky and shatters her Gear. Hibiki dead?!

Episode 5
Hibiki is wheeled into ICU. The rest hope and believe this won’t kill her because we always know she’ll bounce back, right? Right?! Well, it’s been a week and Hibiki is still under coma. Time to panic? Thanks to Genjurou’s brother who is also Tsubasa’s father, Yatsuhiro manages to pull some strings as a high government official to get external power sources to maintain their operation as currently there is a concurrent worldwide energy maintenance. Elfnein is making significant progress with her Project Ignite. She dreams of Carol’s memories of her times with her father. His last dying words is the reason Elfnein will protect the world from Carol as she wants to find out what the answer was. With Alca-Noise detected destroying energy generators worldwide, Kirika and Shirabe sneak into some medical room to get prototype Linkers so they can fight them. These prototypes left behind by Kanade help reduce the recoil of their Gear and go easy on their body. As a team, their attacks are more devastating and effective. Despite the good news that Hibiki is now awake (after another round of her own tragic family past) and grateful to Miku for all that she has done, Micha enters the fray and gives them a run for their money. Kirika becomes her first victim when her Gear is destroyed. With their power drastically reduced, Micha summons Alca-Noise to toy with Shirabe till she is cornered and once her Gear is destroyed too, all that is left for her is to succumb to fate while Kirika is reduced to screaming for anybody to help. You don’t say because here comes Tsubasa and Chris with their brand new Gear. Looks like Elfnein finished in time. Another reason to thank your lucky stars.

Episode 6
Thanks to Project Ignite, not only the damaged Gears are repaired, it also boosts its output power. They are able to fight on par with Micha till Carol enters the fray. She tells Micha to retreat because the plan’s progression is utmost important and she will take care of this. Carol summons her harp weapon that summons some Relic and transforms her into an adult version to fight. She is very powerful thanks to the memories she absorbed as fuel and since she has been living for a long time, yes, she is that freaking powerful. Tsubasa and Chris are down so they initiate an Ignite module, Dainsleif. It stabs their hearts. The pain is very immense and they are in risk of going berserks like how Hibiki did last season. But that is the essential of this module. To bring out that berserk power but the risk is suicidal if they cannot handle it. They are forced to face their past nightmares and regrets. Although they pull each other out from the abyss, the synchronization failed. Carol then unleashes Alca-Noise to destroy the city if they can’t get back up and fight. Now Hibiki enters the fray. Elfnein has given back her repaired Gungnir and she is all set to go. Once again, the trio activates Dainsleif. The reward for surpassing that painful madness? A cooler and darker outfit! To prove how powerful they are, Carol unleashes 3,000 Alca-Noise so that they could just wipe them out with their freaking awesome firepower. Then Carol also tries to show off her awesome power and kills some of her Alca-Noise in the way. The combined effort of the trio finally bring down Carol. Hibiki asks her reason to destroy the world. Can’t remember. So long ago that now it has become her reason to fight. Carol won’t leave Hibiki in peace and reminds her that her song cannot save anyone before burning herself. Hibiki may be left traumatized but she stays strong and prove her wrong.

Episode 7
Elfnein gives Maria and co their upgraded Gear. I suppose the girls are supposed to train but when the beach is so tempting, they can’t help have fun. And call it part of their training. That’s why I can’t blame Elfnein for asking Hibiki to properly train because despite their new Gear has extra protective layers, it is still dangerous. Then Garie pops up to attack. What better way to train via the real deal. Garie throws Alca-Noise to separate the rest so she could target Maria. She thought wrong if she doesn’t have her Gear. Maria uses it to transform and fight back. She thought of using Dainsleif to finish the fight but she failed to overcome her darkness and now becomes a wild beast. Garie defeats her and feels so disappointed that she just retreats. While everyone else discusses the Autoscorers retreating instead of finishing them off each time and the mystery they can still move about with Carol’s orders, Maria is alone thinking about her weak self. Elfnein tries to encourage her when Garie returns for another rematch. Although still weak, Maria remembers what she thought to Elfnein. Despite Elfnein had no fighting abilities, she still acted bravely in the face of danger. True strength is being yourself. Activating Dainsleif this time, Maria overcomes her weakness and powers up into a cool suit to beat up Garie and finishing her off for good. During this fight, Phara has snuck into the base and stole some chip. The girls continue playing their sparklers. Hibiki is made to go buy snacks. Miku accompanies her. But at the convenience store, they are shocked to see Hibiki’s dad. Her first reaction? Run away!

Episode 8
When Hibiki calms down, she meets her father. Looks like he wants to start all over again after realizing that she has been in the media as a hero saving the world. However she still blames him for leaving the family when they needed him most and leaves. This guy couldn’t get more despicable than he is. He asks Hibiki to pay his bill! Phara returns with the stolen data of some Photosphere. It contains data of the world’s ley lines that Nastassja used to focus Phonic gain for Frontier. Hibiki is still angry as she joins Shirabe and Kirika to fight Alca-Noise. She takes out her frustrations by doing a lot of damage but when she realizes that she might also be responsible for the family’s breakup, Micha owns her. The others come to her rescue and could have lost had not Micha had orders to retreat. The girls are thankfully alright but Kirika and Shirabe are fighting that they think the other is being a burden. Hibiki apologizes for letting them get involved in her personal matter. Oh, now Miku feels responsible too. So it’s everybody’s fault and yet nobody’s? Genjurou discovers a plot by the Autoscorers to map their power routes. After the destruction of power supplies, they have been sending additional energy to government facilities as compensation. Micha returns to fight Kirika and Shirabe. Again they think they’re getting in each other’s way. But then they realize all that thought was because they care about each other. Other people got mad at them because they care about them. Yeah. Okay. Whatever. This gives them the motivation to use Dainsleif as they power up and combine their powers to destroy Micha. Later the duo are reprimanded by Genjurou and Chris for being too reckless. Surprisingly they feel remorseful so they let them off the hook. Carol has revived back in the base. After learning Garie and Micha has died glorious deaths, it is time to hasten Apocalypse and slaughter every last miracle.

Episode 9
Genjurou has deduced there might be 2 spots the enemy might attack. Neptune’s Palace, the secret of the most secret of all bases hidden underwater that houses all dangerous and unknown and unanalyzed materials. As keystones of shrines around the country are being destroyed to disrupt the ley lines, the other location is no other than Tsubasa’s childhood home. I guess it’s like going home to see papa, eh? Tsubasa and Maria are tasked for this one. Let’s say Tsubasa and Yatsuhiro’s relationship aren’t the warmest. Don’t expect to see any father-daughter hugs and kisses. More of the kind that says, “You’re still able? Do your job then”. Even Maria got upset on Tsubasa’s behalf on this. Phara then attacks. Although Tsubasa fights her, her sword breaks because Phara’s ability is that no sword can destroy her. Once she destroys the keystone, she retreats. Genjurou saw this coming that the enemy is also attacking Neptune’s Palace simultaneously. He sends Chris, Kirika and Shirabe to face off with Leiur and Carol. Elfnein believes Carol is after Yantra Sarvasva which has awesome controlling mechanism and properties. It is essential in her world destruction plan. Once Tsubasa has recovered, Yatsuhiro shows them lots of research works some German company who created their Symphogear suit, analysis of the Alca-Noise and alchemy. Whatever. Sounds too technical. Since Tsubasa is fine, he wants her to take it elsewhere to analyse further. Time for Maria to get upset again…

Tsubasa brings Maria to her old room. It’s a big mess! And it was from 10 years ago! Hey… Not dusty? Tsubasa explains her thorny relationship with her dad. It all began when grandpa couldn’t decide an heir to the family. Neither Yatsuhiro nor Genjurou were chosen and instead he chose Tsubasa right after she was born. She didn’t understand but later found out she wasn’t her father’s daughter. To keep the family’s blood pure, grandpa forced her mom to bear his child. That’s Tsubasa. So grandpa is her real dad?! Tsubasa kept fighting in hopes Yatsuhiro would accept her. But if this is all she has to show, it must be disappointing. Phara returns to attack Tsubasa particularly. Again, she loses. Tsubasa feels useless till Yatsuhiro surprisingly tells her to sing and not be afraid to hold her dreams. Since Tsubasa hasn’t guessed it yet, Maria tells her Yatsuhiro hasn’t abandoned her. That speckles room? He cleaned it for the last 10 years! He held on his memories for her by holding on to her room! He also distanced her from the family so she could achieve her dream. Complicated … Tsubasa revives and uses Dainsleif to power up and sing again. But can she defeat Phara with a sword? That is not a sword. Those are her wings which carry her dreams! Oh gosh! She just defeated Phara’s concept just like that? And with that too, she cuts Phara in half. Carol has got her hands on Yantra Sarvasva. Chris and co attack relentlessly. When a missile is going to hit Carol, guess who stopped it with only a bare hand? IT’S DR VER!!! OMG! THIS BASTARD IS STILL ALIVE??????!!!!!!! If you’re wondering where Hibiki is, she is resting. Could have been nothing if not her father kept calling her! Look at the miscalls in her log!!! OMG! Stalker material! She shuts off her phone. Ah, true peace…

Episode 10
Kirika and Shirabe stop Chris from going all out because they fear killing Ver would mean no more Linkers as he is the only one who knows how to make them. But still, she doesn’t care and had to be stopped for her recklessness. This allowed the villains to get away. This has Chris very mad as she views she doesn’t need her juniors help and can solve this herself. Elfnein wonders why Carol is still moving forward with her plan since Yantra Sarvasva has been destroyed. She remembers confronting Carol about destroying the world which isn’t part of the deal. So she thinks. She told her that father wouldn’t want the end of the world but Carol snapped back at the clone for calling herself his daughter. Ver tells us why he is still alive. Because his left hand is now Nephilim, he is treated as an object after being recovered and imprisoned at Neptune’s Palace. As Genjurou leads Chris and co to catch up on the villains, it dawned to him it is like they know the area well. Like as though somebody hacked HQ. Could it be there is a mole among them? Turns out to be Elfnein! OMG! However Elfnein is unsure herself. Carol’s projection reveals because she is a clone, she can hack her senses so unwittingly Elfnein has been projecting information back to her. The reason the Autoscorers continue to attack the Symphogear ladies is because their cursed melody is essential to the destruction of the world. Yes, Ignite module has been part of their plan. Whenever they use it, the Autoscorers will record them and send it to Carol. Therefore they don’t need the Gear users in the end. Although Phara is disabled, she had enough time to explain all that to Maria and Tsubasa before self destructing. Elfnein feels so guilty, she wants to be killed off. But kind Genjurou reminds her about her mission to thwart Carol’s plan. Leiur fights Chris and co so Carol and Ver could escape. When Kirika and Shirabe got knocked out, this leaves Chris an emotional wreck. She is afraid of being alone again in this cruel world, blah, blah, blah. But the juniors manage to tell her about relying on her and learning new things. This gives Chris the motivation to use Dainsleif and blow the crap out of Leiur. Thanks to Kirika and Shirabe’s cooperation, they manage to seal off the section instead of being blown up together. But now the place is crumbling so they rush and return to the main ship. As they race to surface, a giant humanoid monster is chasing them. Once on the surface, the monster chops the ship in half!

Episode 11
Chris destroys the monster. That was easy. Though, Elfnein was slightly injured. Meanwhile Hibiki sums up her courage to meet daddy again. He wants their family to get back again but he is afraid of seeing mom?! WTF?! Has he got no balls?! And Hibiki was ready to give him a second chance… The sky cracks. Here comes Chateau activated by Ver. You know, Hibiki’s dad is a real dick. He is recording this Armageddon tool and thinking how much he can sell on social media! If the world is still around… Because Ver considers Carol’s goal of destroying the world pathetic, he will take over her reigns as hero. Before he can start his hero ranting crap, Carol stabs him. You tell it to him, sister. Side characters can never be heroes! Carol goes down to Hibiki to bring her more despair. Although her dad might did a surprise move by pushing his daughter to safety, that’s all to it. He now runs away like a coward as Carol targets him. How shameful. Not even Hibiki has words to answer that. But wait. Daddy isn’t just running around for fun. He is using this as diversion so Hibiki could escape. The line that seals it when he says if he wants the family to work, she has to be part of it. This makes Hibiki that his words were always what kept her going when it was tough. He has always been looking out for her. Wow. All the faith restored in just a split second. Hibiki revives and transforms to fight Carol. Carol will kill her father then but thankfully Hibiki’s pals have arrived to help. After daddy is ushered to safety (he is brought back on Genjurou’s ship where he continues to watch his daughter because like he literally said, he won’t take his eyes off her), Carol transforms into her adult version and starts her destructive damage. She can continue singing her swan song without straining her body. Chateau resonates like a tuning fork, amplifying her song and causing one hell of a big energy blast! While Hibiki’s team fights the powerful Carol, Maria’s team heads up to Chateau to try and stop it. But looks like they’ve got lots of Alca-Noise to deal with. To their surprise, they see Nastassja before them. What the heck is this series bringing back dead people?

Episode 12
Nastassja tells Maria her hands are tainted and cannot be saved. Doing so means only finding salvation for herself. Kirika and Shirabe don’t want her to be duped by this fake and take her and run. Carol explains about some history between songs and alchemy. So songs destroy the world? I don’t get it. Maria’s team stumble upon Ver. I knew he wasn’t dead. He has lost a lot of blood and can’t control Chateau. So he is going to work with them to destroy Chateau. Yes, this means taking all of them onboard as well. When Nastassja confronts Maria again, Maria denies her and she turns into Fine, a dark culmination of Maria’s mistakes. Elfnein contacts Ver to give him the blueprint of the Photosphere. You know characters are going to sacrifice themselves when they start saying goodbye. That’s what Maria’s team say to Hibiki’s team. Before you know it, Chateau explodes. Carol is left in despair that her world destruction plan is in tatters. Elfnein tries to convince Carol that this is not what father wants. Carol still believes in her revenge to overcome her grief. After all, he left them questions without answers. Elfnein further explains about alchemy. Its goal of understanding and harmony. Therefore father’s solution is forgiveness even if the world rejected him. This is what he wanted to tell them. You think Carol would learn her lesson. But no. She is going to use all her power to destroy the present even if it means risking all her memories. Hibiki and co have no choice but to use Ignite to fight her. Even unlocking their safety they still cannot do much damage as they get blown away. Carol’s Phonic gain alone has 7 billion swan songs!!! And then… They hear Maria and co singing! I knew it was too good to kill them off. Apparently Ver saved them so they could tell his tale of how great a hero is for saving the world. Sure, she’ll tell the world about him being the worst hero. There you go… Bye Ver. The Symphogear girls start singing and there’s lot of power blasting whatever. Seems they are using Carol’s Phonic gain against her. With Elfnein giving her final miracle, it has the Symphogear girls in new sparkling bright outfits! Hey wait. I thought I’ve seen these outfits before at the end of last season?

Episode 13
More numbers. More power. Even armed with a miracle. You think that’s enough to beat Carol? Carol tells her dad’s story whereby he created medicine for a plagued village. But they show their thanks by burning him because he isn’t a guy who is supposed to bring miracles. That’s why every miracle is a curse to her and she’ll destroy every last one of them. She sends out more Alca-Noise or the Symphogear girls to fight but that is just for their warm up and distraction so that Carol has more time to power up and summon a mecha dragon. Zoids? More power lights exchanged by both sides. Carol starts to falter when memories of her dad resurface. Thinking it is trying to stop her, she’ll even burn them to burn everything. The Symphogear girls focus all their power to Hibiki so she could save Carol. Even when Carol is defeated, she remains adamant her songs cannot save anybody. She refuses to be saved. Hibiki desperately reaches out her hand. Carol sees Elfnein reaching out to her but it turned into her dad. I guess his words were enough to save her (in reality, it is Hibiki taking her hand). But the dragon exploded and everything within the 12km radius is decimated! Wasteland from Fallout 4? In the aftermath, miraculously no civilians died (at least it was not stated). Our Symphogear girls are alive but Carol is nowhere to be found. They casually chat with Elfnein like as though they are best friends in the world. But after everyone leaves, Hibiki cries alone in the toilet and Miku provides a shoulder to cry on. That night, Carol visits Elfnein. She doesn’t remember who she is. Wait. She can’t recall her name but she could find this room? Despite losing her memories, all Carol could see was Elfnein’s face so she thought she might get answers if she sees her. Elfnein talks about their dad but it seems Elfnein’s body cannot last any much longer. She thought she would gladly die for the world but now she feels she wants to live. We get our yuri moment when they kiss. It’s such a heart stopping move that Elfnein’s heart literally stops. The other girls rush in. Elfnein is gone. Carol is standing there. But wait. It’s not Carol. It’s Elfnein in Carol’s body! So happy they can’t resist a group hug. So… Carol + Elfnein = Ca-nein-> Canine? Just kidding… End scenes show Hibiki getting along well with her dad. Chris exerting her senior muscles while supervising Kirika and Shirabe over summer homework. Maria and Tsubasa fly to England together. Elfnein is now working at SONG. Finally, Hibiki’s dad sums up his courage to make up with mom. Since both adults are hesitating, Hibiki takes the initiative to join their hands. She’s never letting go. I mean, not in the literal sense.

Symphogear GX Zesshoushinai

Just like last season, these are short skits lasting around 8 minutes each that you get when you buy the DVDs. If you can’t get enough of the girls, the fun continues in bite size and in chibi form.

OVA 1
Taking place mostly after the Frontier incident, Hibiki complains about studying for the test but then she realizes this is something normal and thus is happy to conclude she has returned to her everyday life. Genjurou receives report about the sunken pieces of Frontier. While majority of its parts are useless or destroyed, they find a torn letter with some sort of mysterious poem on it. They have formed a special team to decipher it. Maria, Kirika and Shirabe are in prison. Shirabe seems to be greatly anticipating when the clock strikes 12. Because this is when the food is served. And boy, do prison food tastes good? Must be the kind of prison they’re in. Heck, they’ve been treated to very good meals that Maria can’t help curse her luck during their time at FIS because they only had meals they could only dream of. Therefore she is in a dilemma to continue being stubborn so they can be locked in prison and get served good food. Hibiki, Miku and Chris watch Tsubasa perform on TV as well as her blunders on variety show. When Hibiki and co visit Maria and co, Tsubasa notes how they have become well rounded in terms of thinking. But they misinterpret it as becoming fat due to the inactivity of lying around in prison! Tsubasa’s graduation day looms and she will fly off to London after that to fulfil her dream of singing on stage there. Tsubasa teases being worried for Chris because she will tend to hide her tears. Chris embarrassingly protests that and counters back that Tsubasa is the one who will cry at the graduation ceremony. Tsubasa in turn refutes that because a sword doesn’t cry. Then at the ceremony she couldn’t stop crying. Chris can’t make fun of her after hearing her tears were because she can’t stand the thought of being separated from everyone. This too infects Chris as she starts crying. But save the crying for later because they get a message about a space shuttle re-entry having difficulties. Time to go on a mission one last time together.

OVA 2
After Maria graduates and leaves to become a UN agent, she seeks a favour from Chris to look after Kirika and Shirabe because she figured she is the best person to guide them around and to make them feel at home. Chris is not amused that she has got such a reputation and when she finds out Hibiki was responsible in giving Maria that impression, she punches her! Call it memory rage! Chris tries to dictate how Hibiki and Miku should address her but since it got so confusing and nobody is listening, she just lets them call her however they please. Chris and co take Kirika and Shirabe to tour the school. However they already know the layout of the school so well when they learnt it during the infiltration that they feel bad of spoiling it. Just go with the flow. As they explain the several facilities, the duo cannot help think this is some sort of elaborated Symphogear training ground. You think too much… Tsubasa has arrived in England and awaiting her new challenge. Then Ogawa hands her a list of variety shows she will participate in. Not the kind of challenge she is looking for? Maria reads her contract as an undercover singer and feels like a hero. She feels proud but when the thought of Tsubasa crosses her mind, she feels she can’t compare to her. Tsubasa and Maria call each other. Each feeling awkward in their conversation. Tsubasa tells her about receiving so many variety jobs that she has trouble deciding which ones to reject. Eventually they decide to work with each other and sing on stage together. They heave a sigh of relief to have a friend saviour. Chris is cleaning her place and complaining while she is at it because her friends will be coming over. But she seems happy with the thought of having them over.

OVA 3
Finally an episode for Carol and her Autoscorers. Taking place before the start of this season, Carol is not pleased that despite using her own thought patterns to create her Autoscorers’ AI, she feels ashamed to see them pose like that. Garie reasons how people want to see cool final bosses-like pose but it just pisses Carol off to think just that. Yuri moment! Garie kisses Phara and Leiur to bring them alive. Carol watches this and is embarrassed and reminds to mind where they do it. But Garie argues they are based off her AI so she herself might actually like public display of affection. Carol’s plan begins by setting loose Elfnein. But she is so busy doing last minute checks that Carol just tells her off to just escape, damn it! And since she is being such a klutz even in escaping, Carol orders Leiur to chase her out in pretence of attacking her but without giving away their intentions. Leiur feels clashed because Elfnein looks like Carol and her conscience might stop her from doing so. Since when did Carol program conscience into her? Phara and Leiur discuss about random and fair use of rock-scissors-paper and lottery ladder. This is just to show off their statistic knowledge. The Autoscorers comment on Micha’s weird pose. Micha thinks it is cool despite not knowing its meaning so the rest think it could only mean Carol came up with it. Garie is not too happy Micha continues to bug her. This time her ribbon came undone and because of those monstrous hands, she can’t tie them back. Ironic for an ultimate Autoscorer she can’t do the simplest things. But I suppose Garie had a change of heart when Micha claims she’ll be pretty much useless without her around and fixes her ribbon so she can stop saying ‘stupid’ things.

OVA 4
Maria and Tsubasa are on a plane back to Japan. Maria thinks the rest will start teasing her when she returns and fears facing them. But luckily she manages to give off that asserting feel thanks to the in-flight food. Miku and Hibiki are cooking and eating beef stroganoff. I think Hibiki’s cooking is horrible but she is forcing herself to eat it so as to remember the taste and not make the same mistake in the future. During the time when Maria chides Hibiki for running away from using Gungnir, the reason Hibiki can’t look her in the eye is because her face is covered in blood! Chris imagines using Hibiki’s Gungnir but couldn’t stand the fact it is yellow. However she sniggers like a maniac dreaming about using Kirika and Shirabe’s Gears. Tsubasa too seems to be ‘depressed’ because she also knows what Chris is thinking and had those same thoughts as well. A time when Hibiki, Tsubasa and Chris unleash Dainsleif to fight against Carol, the process was so painful to watch that Kirika and Shirabe wonder if the trio have become the sheath instead of unsheathing the weapon. Kirika didn’t realize she was thinking aloud and embarrassed everybody when she thought of how much she loves Shirabe. The girls are in special training so Miku starts snapping photos of Hibiki like a mad paparazzi. For documentation purposes? You mean for her own collection, that is. Kirika and Shirabe and treading slowly and carefully in the water. They wonder how Ogawa does it by running on the water while carrying them. Simple. That f*cking guy is Jesus Christ! Just kidding!

Elegy Of Alchemy, Requiem Of Delirium
So let me guess. If they ever going to make another season, we now have Elfnein as part of the team? Yeah, the team is expanding and getting bigger and bigger the more seasons it gets. And I suppose if that happens, they’ll resurrect her Autoscorers and reform them into good guys too? Yeah well, we’ll leave that for another time. As far as this season goes, I guess it would be what Symphogear fans would expect. The songs, the action, the girls in tight fitting combat gear. Despite the ending is a happy one without much of a cliff-hanger (I believe it is time for our heroines to have a relaxing time that they deserved and earned from all the suffering they’ve been through this season even if it is just shown for 5 seconds at the end), there is of course still that little threat seeing Genjurou and Yatsuhiro were discussing about the emerging threat from Europe considering the great ol’ America has fallen.

I suppose they try to shake things up a little by introducing enemies that somewhat do not use the Symphogear technology but ancient alchemy. Because something feels a bit wrong when you see the enemies always getting the better of the girls but yet they do not finish them off but come back to fight them another day. I suppose it is to show that they are not perfect and instead of always expecting the Symphogear girls to come out tops each time, they finally meet their match in a stronger enemy. Sometimes it feels like a big training stint to power up the girls because what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Heck, I thought they might pull off this shocking revelation that Carol and the Autoscorers are actually the good guys on their side, just playing the villains so that our Symphogear girls, the last saviours of mankind could power up greatly and defeat and even bigger villain. Too bad it wasn’t as complicated as that.

I’m sure they are trying to add some drama effect this season too. Because last season we had Miku almost turning into a baddie and for this season, we had Hibiki’s father returning to ruin her life again. At first looks he passes off as no more than a parasitic selfish jerk whom viewers would instantly love to hate. Heh. At least Ver was a bad guy but what is worse than that is a father who dared to come back into her daughter’s life without any sort of repentance. But since we cannot have jerks like him in this show especially if he is to live and be reunited with Hibiki in the end, suddenly he redeems himself by having a change in character. And before you know it, he is the best dad in the world at least from Hibiki’s renewed point of view. Yeah, with all those cool fatherly lines at the end, it is hard to cast him as a douchebag anymore from the way he shows his remorse and worries while watching over Hibiki’s final fight. To sum it up, he isn’t the perfect or the best father role model ever but he is still Hibiki’s dad no matter what. Aww… Time for a big warm hug?

Then there is Tsubasa’s case too about her estranged father and such but that felt a little rushed seeing her case wasn’t as bad as Hibiki. I’m sure they would have done something for Chris too if her parents weren’t dead. Either ways, our girls reconciling with their father seems to be the turning point and motivation that encourages them to fight better. So I’m guessing this season’s theme is all about the father, eh? Yeah well, Genjurou as the father figure didn’t do pretty much just like last season except commanding in his ship and watching over the girls. But still, a father figure nevertheless. Maybe a mother figure for Maria, Kirika and Shirabe. And when we have Hibiki’s family back on track again, they decide to add the theme of family in addition to all that. Fathers, friends, family… F*cking fabulous!

I can’t say much about the villainesses for this season because Carol’s excuse to destroy the world just because they burnt her fire doesn’t seem like a good justification for Armageddon. Of course, from Carol’s point of view, her father is the world and everything and natural if your dad is killed by dickheads, you’d definitely want to watch the world burn too. And her Autoscorers I thought they were just fancy posing mannequins in fancy dresses that would make them look like models for a photo shoot. They lack any deep personality except maybe for Micha who is probable to most psycho of the lot. But that itself pales in comparison to the madness of Ver.

I had this thought that the series was going to bring back dead characters because when they did it for Carol (seriously, how can the big little boss die so early and before her Autoscorers did), I didn’t expect they would bring Ver and Nastassja back although the latter is just some sort of clone. Hey, Hibiki nearly died and she came back. I know, she’s the heroine. Heck, I thought at this rate they might even bring back Ryouko (at least yet another Fine’s reincarnation) and even Kanade and Serena! Thank God they didn’t. But I find it pretty annoying that characters who are supposed to be dead should stay dead no matter how popular or favourite that character is in my books. Because doing so just makes it feel cheap. That kind of twist and revelation doesn’t work these days in today’s stories. So I guess they had the ‘decency’ to kill off Ver (again) and even if Carol’s gone, at least she lives on in Elfnein. Like I said earlier, if they really tried bringing back dead characters, maybe next season we would have Autoscorers joining their ranks.

In every episode there is guaranteed to be some sort of action from the Symphogear girls. I can’t recall how exaggerated the actions were in the previous seasons but with the third season, they get more power ups and the more powerful they get, the more colourful their songs and beams are. As seen in the big final epic battle. Yeah, sometimes I think it is one heck of a big magic light show and the only difference is that you can’t stay too close and be in awe of those magnificent lights because they will kill you. Otherwise, the unique display of each of the Symphogear girls’ skill sets are still an amusing watch as each comes in their own typesetting font style and move names. With the threat of Carol and Autoscorers, Noise (or Alca-Noise as they are now termed this season) seems to be a very distant threat now. It is like they have become enemies our girls to warm up and the obligatory little minions they must fight before battling the stage boss.

Many of the casts from the previous seasons are retained. New ones joining the line up are Inori Minase as Carol (Nagisa in Jitsu Wa Watashi Wa), Misaki Kuno as Elfnein (Hawk in Nanatsu No Taizai), Shizuka Ishigami as Leiur (Stella in Rakudai Kishi No Cavalry), Masumi Tazawa as Phara (Saionji in Yamada-kun And The Seven Witches), Shiori Izawa as Micha (Tanpopo in Witch Craft Works), Michiyo Murase as Garie (Slywia in Schwarzesmarken), Kazuhiro Yamaji as Yatsuhiro (Senor Pink in One Piece) and Toshihiko Seki as Hibiki’s dad (Senketsu in Kill La Kill).

Just like in previous seasons, the ever great Nana Mizuki as usual sings the opening theme. Exterminate doesn’t sound that all different from its predecessors. Displaying her powerful vocals as well as the fast paced techno rock music that permeates throughout the entire series. The main ending theme, Rebirth-day by Ayahi Takagaki also follows this same pattern. But breaking that pattern is Bayonet Charge, a duet by both of them. This special ending theme is more of hard rock. Then there is Glorious Break by Nana Mizuki which is more dramatic sounding with all the choir voices and orchestra music in the background. Like in previous seasons too, the insert songs of the girls singing are aplenty. I believe there is as much if not more insert songs than last season although from what I can see from the list is that most of them are remix variations from the main ones. Well, not that I noticed which ones stand out since I can’t be focusing my senses to both that battle and the songs. And since I can’t really hear what they are singing, I guess I’ll be concentrating on the power fights instead.

Overall, if you are a fan of the series or a big fan of any one or more of the famous seiyuus-cum-singers, then you’ll probably enjoy and feel nostalgic for the sequel that mostly many might have forgotten over the years. It would just be another ordinary show of girls in tight sci-fi outfits fighting villains via singing for casual viewers who has at least watched the previous 2 seasons. Newcomers jumping in might be confused with what they’re seeing without all that back story. This series is still worth a shot if it gets another season. But of course it cannot go on forever and like everything else, has to come to an end one day. Even the once popular American Idol is now over, right? So when it does happen for this series, let us hope they will bow out with grace with their swan song.

Wakaba Girl

April 8, 2016

Do we need more of this? Cute girls doing cute things? Oh yes. The way such anime series is being churned out every season shows that this genre is not likely to die anytime soon. And so is with the case of Wakaba Girl. Our titular character is a rich girl experiencing her time with her commoner friends. Ah, I guess you can guess where this is going. As you can tell, when you have a wealthy character, they are usually of a different status and class. Or even world. And when they descend down to the lands of the commoners, things can get pretty awkward as they try to fit in or rationalize what is going on. It is no different for our main girl here as she experiences her first time doing many things with her first real friends in a world and time she has never experienced before. To put it shortly, cute girls doing cute things lah…

Episode 1
Super rich girl, Wakaba Kohashi attends her first day at a normal high school. She quickly makes friends with Mao Kurokawa, Nao Mashiba AKA Shiba and Moeko Tokita. They discuss why they pick this school and they certainly thought Wakaba accidentally enrolled in the wrong school. I mean, a normal high school is so out of place for an elegant lady like her, right? Wakaba admits… She is a little dumb! After deciding what to call each other, they get ready for PE class. The friends notice Wakaba wears a long skirt. Wakaba tries out a shorter skirt and is ecstatic. Even more ridiculous, her friends find out her dream is to become a high school girl. Yeah, you can say she’s literally living her dream now. Wakaba is interested to become a gyaru. So she believes this is what she will write down in her assignment of what she wants to become in the future. She thinks Moeko is the epitome of what it means to be a gyaru. Wakaba goes home and happily tells her mom, Yuzuha and sister, Otoha that she definitely can make friends. She also writes in her future assignment that she wants to go to this school forever.

Episode 2
Wakaba is invited to join her friends to go eat ice cream after school. So happy that she is crying! It is one of her dreams to buy junk food. Oh yeah. Rich people don’t eat junk food, right? Wakaba is so eager beaver that she cannot wait till class ends. When Mao teases Shiba about her bra cup, Wakaba thinks about ice cream cup and cones. She really wants ice cream, huh? When class is over and the tired friends want to postpone the ice cream visit, Wakaba is super devastated! I guess this means they can’t put it off. So the girls are here at the ice cream store. Wakaba makes an order but she might have confused it with Shiba’s bra cup! She also takes a commemorative group photo. Moeko allows Wakaba to take a bite of her ice cream flavour but she chomps off the entire top! That counts as one bite, right? Wakaba really enjoys herself and wants to do this every day but her friends remind her that it is only fun because they do it occasionally. So they have her research on other places she wants to go. She has Yuzuha and Otoha help out. So the next day in class, she suggests all those places (complete with thick guide booklets): Hokkaido, Okinawa and even France! Does next weekend sound good?

Episode 3
When Wakaba hears Shiba and Moeko trading games, she too wants in. She plays games? Wakaba shows the new game she bought. She thought it was a galge because she heard several boys recommending it and snuck into a store in a poor disguise to buy it. Shiba whispers the true nature of this game. Shock! Shiba then rants about the otome games she needs to try. Taking down notes? It makes Wakaba believe she is a real otaku race. Moeko asks Wakaba if her mansion has butlers, maids, horses and pumpkin carriages. Sort of. Like in a fairytale? They notice her cute hair accessory so Wakaba explains it is a keepsake from her late grandma to be handed down to her generation. Such a heavy burden to shoulder… Shiba lends a game for Wakaba to try. At home, Yuzuha and Otoha watch her play but then it gets more intensive… Oh my… Next day, Wakaba returns the game to Shiba because it is too advanced for her! Turns out this wasn’t a gyaru game but more of BL.

Episode 4
The friends are supposed to meet at the park. But Wakaba isn’t here yet. Maybe she’s got the meeting place wrong. They try to call her number. Shiba realizes this is a fixed line number but Moeko remembers she has a handphone. Well… Wakaba brought her cordless phone… No signal… When they finally meet, Wakaba is overcome with emotions that this is outing wasn’t a dream!!! They then visit Moeko’s house. Wakaba thought she offended her when she says her room is small and cute like a fairy’s house. With everybody reading their own manga, Moeko thought they should have just gone to a manga café. So they decide to make cupcakes but Moeko won’t let them help out and finish baking them from scratch. Tastes good. At the end of the day, Wakaba wants to thank their hospitality by paying them!!! Sorry, girl. Your friends don’t want to be friends for hire. In class, Wakaba has baked a cupcake based on Moeko’s recipe with minor adjustments. Obviously it is black and burnt to a crisp.

Episode 5
Mao is sighing like hell. Want to tell us what is bugging you? Seems there is a cute guy she likes who commutes with the same train. She secretly likes to stand close to him and even secretly takes his photo! But one day she sees a hot girl talking casually with him. So that’s the problem? Couldn’t she be just over-thinking that she might just be his friend? Since she can’t give up, she thinks of an image change. I don’t know why she wants to have a rich girl persona (girls, guys are after your boobs! Haha!) so who could be the best rich girl she can copy? Ah yes… We have a genuine rich girl here. Mao observes Wakaba’s every move. She might be even seeing things of how rich girls do things because she sees how Wakaba is walking on air when in reality she is not! More observations has her conclude rich girls like commoner foods and animals (I think Wakaba got the wrong idea about crows being cute little birds). Now she tails her to her mansion. Stunned to see how big it is? Even more stunning is about her talk with Otoha about tomorrow’s party and she has narrowed down to 50 dresses to choose from! Feeling the goal is too high to achieve? Giving up? I suppose. Mao would prefer to be herself. The next day, the friends wonder why Mao and Wakaba are acting the same. Did Mao take after Wakaba? Actually it is the other way around. She realizes Wakaba has always been trying to copy her. This means Mao is the ultimate girl, right? Yeah. The ultimate of the ultimate.

Episode 6
A week into summer holidays and Wakaba is already bored staying at home. Miss her friends? So when Moeko calls to invite her to the pool, she is so freaking relieved, bursting into a fit of happiness. Since the last time she wore a swimsuit was during elementary, I guess Moeko would gladly lend hers of last year since it doesn’t fit anymore. The friends meet up to buy theirs. They wonder why Wakaba is taking so long changing till they realize she doesn’t know how to put it on! Since it fits her, Moeko would gladly give it to her so Wakaba fears it may be cursed! We see the girls having a swell time at the pool. At the end of the day, as they plan to go to next week’s summer festival for the fireworks, this invokes a childhood trauma in Wakaba as she got lost during that time and thus her curfew. Poor Wakaba? Are they going without her? The answer is obvious…

Episode 7
Wakaba’s friends are outside her house. No, Moeko. You can’t just break down the gate to enter. Luckily Otoha is there and invites them in. When Wakaba sees her friends, it seems they have something they need to talk to not just her but big sister as well. It is about the festival. They want Wakaba to come along. They know about the curfew and promise to bring her home safely. Sure. If they can convince mom. Looks like the negotiation succeeded since we see Wakaba in her yukata meeting up with her friends. Moeko is good with the goldfish scooping so Wakaba wonders with this bundle of cash, how many tries she can get… Shiba is good at the shooting gallery while Mao aces at the crane game. The night ends with a great display of fireworks. Next day, fun is over. Back to school. Don’t even remind Mao about her homework. You think that’s bad? Wait till you see Wakaba. She is still in vacation mode, bringing her float and candy floss with her. Someone is not over the fun yet.

Episode 8
Wakaba is happy the school cultural festival is around the corner. She has been keeping a countdown date. Since a year ago?! The class is doing a play and Mao is the super director. Then check out Shiba who is sewing clothes although she is not in the play. Seems the costume is for herself in a play known as ‘life’. Or maybe it is this Miss Clover beauty pageant she wants to win. Shiba thinks highly of herself as beautiful but her friends don’t sound so convincing in rating her highly. Think taking off her glasses will make her look prettier? Not much of a reaction from her friends too. What about putting makeup? Too much of it! She is attracting stares for all the wrong reasons. Moeko wonders why Wakaba is so eager for the cultural festival. Her past record dictates she usually transfers away or develops fever from the excitement. Could it be she is coming down with one now?! Say it isn’t so! They see Shiba pouring a bucket of cold water on herself as some sort of superstition to win the pageant. She realizes too late it just looks stupid. Back home, Wakaba is so excited for tomorrow’s cultural festival that she cannot sleep and calls Moeko. It is 3 in the morning for God’s sake!

Episode 9
Wakaba is excited for the cultural festival but when she gets lost in the sea of crowd, she is seen cowering in trauma at some corner. Too much to handle, eh? Although she is a noob with many of the festival stuffs, she has lots of stamina to go everywhere. When they realize Shiba is not around, they think it must be that bucket challenge. She got sick. But because she doesn’t want to ruin her 100% attendance record, here she is! Sick and weak. Since it is impossible for her to participate in the pageant, they need to find a replacement. Wakaba? She is already wearing a dress that makes her look like a winner. So they settle and borrow next door’s maid café’s maid uniform (now this is much better!!!!!). Shiba is the one reeking with nervousness during the competition despite she is just at the backstage. Yuzuha and Otoha arrive just in time for the pageant to announce Wakaba as the winner! See?! The maid outfit always seals it!!! For her victory speech, she dedicates this win to her late grandma! So it’s not Shiba? But later she thanks her although Shiba can’t accept the trophy because it is not her who won it. She’ll keep trying and win it on her own. If she doesn’t win, she’ll just smash the trophy! Wakaba’s win soon spreads. Now she has legions of fan girls admiring her! It only serves to make Shiba feel more regret.

Episode 10
Well, what do you know? Wakaba can actually run fast in the relay! But it is Moeko who is the slowest and as the anchor, everyone zooms past her and they end up last. Eventually as Moeko reveals she sucks at any sports. But I’m not sure about this training to make her do a loop around the bar. Maybe it’s the most basic? She is having a hard time doing so. Mao does an easy flip but I’m not sure if we could understand how she explains it. Shiba tries but cannot do it and Moeko felt assuring there is a ‘comrade’. Now it’s Wakaba’s turn. She makes it look so easy with many multiple flips! As it is getting late, Moeko remains adamant to try till she gets it. Even her hands have blisters. Wakaba will even stay and accompany her till she is successful since she is trying so hard. Finally Moeko manages to perform one. Yeah, big success. Realizing Wakaba’s curfew is close, they quickly rush back and Wakaba makes it back in time. Phew. Then all the security barriers start erecting, turning this mansion into a high security prison?! So this is what a curfew is like?

Episode 11
Winter break is here but why is Wakaba feeling sad? No school means she cannot see her friends! They suggest visiting the shrine on New Year’s Day and this brightens Wakaba’s day. So when the friends converge on New Year’s Eve at Moeko’s place, Wakaba brings a box full of gold ingots as payment! Wakaba doesn’t know what a kotatsu is and she thought it was some dangerous creature. But after experiencing its warmth, it’s not so bad, eh? And of course the feet fight beneath it and I guess some got too comfortable that they might miss the shrine visit at midnight. At the donation box, Wakaba almost tosses a stack of notes into it! They pray that they will have fun again this year. Wakaba introduces the kotatsu to her family and they love it. Otoha has already ordered a bunch of them in different designs. Now they’re addicted to it. Wakaba fears the true nature of this ‘machine’ is to make people lazy!

Episode 12
Yuzuha and Otoha are fretting whether to tell Wakaba or not. Wakaba is surprised to see… Snow! Yup. This is her first time as every time it gets cold, the family will travel south where it is warmer. Shiba prefers to stay warm but Wakaba is doing a weird ritual to make it snow more! Then there is talk about moving up a grade next year and hoping everyone will stay in the same class. Wakaba is thinking of using her money as authority to keep that!!! Out in the snow, the friends have a snow fight. Then Wakaba starts thinking back all the fun times she had with them and it even goes as far back like as though her life is flashing before her eyes! Fun is over when Wakaba catches a cold. Shiba thought she made an insensitive remark that idiots don’t catch cold because Wakaba starts crying. Actually she is happy that they are her friends. Because of her father’s work, she constantly had to change schools and resigned to the fact she will be lonely. Thanks for being her friends. When they reach her home, they see giant decorated snow figures of Yuzuha and Otoha! The friends quickly remind her that they are her friends not because of money! Wakaba overhears her mom talking on the phone about dad needing to move abroad for work again. The shock has Wakaba collapsed with her eyes open!

Episode 13
Wakaba has been missing from school for 3 days. The friends make Shiba call the residence and she is panicking after putting up that cool display. Seems she is down with fever. After school they visit her home and they are still at awed at the mansion. So much so Yuzuha had to bring them in to see Wakaba. In her room, Wakaba tells her friends about her family moving again. Don’t worry. They’ll come to see her. What if it’s abroad? They’ll buy a plane ticket to see her! What if it’s on Mars?! WTF?! They suggest Wakaba to stay behind because she is a high school girl, she can live alone. Shiba is made to go help convince the family and again she is so nervous that it sounds like she is asking for Wakaba’s hand in marriage! But they reveal that only dad is going overseas. The family is not going and can stay. What a big relief. So it’s Wakaba’s part in misunderstanding? With that over, Wakaba orders heaps of pizzas to celebrate. They think she is still far off from being a gyaru this way but Wakaba mentions she may not want to be a gyaru all this time but rather a regular girl. How touching. Next spring, even better news that the friends continue to be in the same class. Wakaba is so happy that she faints!

OVA
Best episode ever? Because Wakaba and friends are working in a maid café!!! Banzai meido! It all began when the friends discussed about wanting to go to a hotspring inn but have no money. What better way than to work their share via maid café. Although Shiba was against this part time job, I guess in a democratic society… On the first day of the job, the friends realize the head maid is no other than Otoha! OMG! Only Wakaba doesn’t recognize her?! The friends get to know this place has been running as part of Otoha’s hobby. Oh, there’s Yuzuha hiding and recording every inch of Wakaba in action. Yeah well, Wakaba is so freaking clumsy at every step. I don’t know how this happened but Shiba who is already nervous donning the maid outfit did some magical girl service to customers who ordered rice omelette. So embarrassing as it is lame. Wakaba’s klutz continues as she even tried to become a customer! When a customer thanks her for a good meal, she is overcome with so much happiness that she wants to pay her with stacks of money! At the end of the day, Otoha hands them their pay. A big stack of notes! The friends can’t possibly take this much cash and hand them back! Except for Wakaba who might be getting the wrong idea that her first day on the job pays this much. The only unhappy person is Yuzuha because she wants to film more of Wakaba in action. But what is even better than that? The next day, Otoha introduces a new maid recruit. The friends are shocked that Yuzuha is in on this. Wakaba, you can’t even recognize your own mother?!

Wakaba, Wakata?
And as expected… It was hardly surprising that kind of ending. I mean, after watching this kind of predictable series season in and season out, you could have actually guessed what was coming and seen it from halfway round the universe. Really. Because here I was actually predicting there was going to be some sort of twist in the penultimate episode and true enough it came out as the ‘threat’ of Wakaba going away again. And when that really does happen, I also predicted and bet 100% that it will not come true. Believe it or not, accurately I predicted that it was only her dad that was going. Oh heck. It was like I was writing the script of this series, no? Why not? For a character that does not even appear or being heard in this anime, what a better way to send him away, eh? Despite the predictable nature of the plot of this series, it still does have some laughs and fun.

With the genre of cute girls doing cute doings in the midst of being done to death over the seasons, perhaps this factor is the one clouding the character development of such characters in the genre. Although not many characters in this series, you can’t help feel that they are not that deep. I mean, let’s think about it. For this kind of genre, would you rather have one of the characters with a deep dark tragic past or one that harbours a secret identity? No, right? I won’t go so far as to say the characters are shallow or maybe even one dimensional but if you are looking for deep character development, you’re looking at the wrong anime. Sure, each of the characters has their own unique personality like the BL loving Shiba and the whimsical Mao. But that itself doesn’t differ much. The only reason why you could feel the friends bond throughout the episodes is because, well, there are no other characters!

Of course the most amusing one is Wakaba herself as she is the star of the show. It is sometimes funny to see her trying to fit in and understand what common people do. To sum her up, she is a rich girl but with poor social understanding. She is like what a country bumpkin is when arriving in the big city. Naïve but sweet. Sometimes you want to laugh and mock at her naivety of things but you have to remember her circumstances that made her so. Because at one point too, we were generally like that. Albeit for most of us it happened during elementary school when we were still exploring and be at awed at the magnificent of things. Wakaba just took a little longer. That is why thankfully she has true friends whom she can stick with for a long time to guide her through the thick and thin of this thing we call society. Be prepared to be in for more shocks, Wakaba. The road to be a normal girl seems long. As long as she got the money, it will be even longer… Get what I mean?

I thought Wakaba is such a dreamy girl and her naivety compounds it. But I also keep wondering if this runs in her family because Yuzuha and Otoha seem to project a similar atmosphere. They might have less screen time and they sure look kind and polite but at the same time also have that dreamy feel too. Sometimes it makes me wonder if the entire family is retarded. Just loaded with cash. Oh sh*t! Did I say the wrong thing?! Or is it money that dumb them down because you know, they can just get everything and anything by just dishing out a stack of cash. Which is of course some sort of a running joke because from time to time we see Wakaba trying to fight her conscious as she takes out her stack of cash in hopes of getting the desired outcome. Because when you are this rich to even have a house that transforms into some sort of creepy high security prison, everyone is going to think that those close to your are just after your money. And thankfully Wakaba’s friends, despite they cannot get over the awe of how majestic her mansion is, they have to keep reminding Wakaba that their friendship is genuine and nothing to do with money. Ah, if only more friendships in this world were like this. Yeah, they’re trying to tell us here that money can’t buy friendship. How I wish that was so true…

Art and drawing are nothing to complain about. In line with the cute girls genre thingy, our female friends are looking as cute as ever and for those hardcore, they’ll definitely make your heart go ~kyun every time they flash a smile. I know. Big cute eyes and doll-like face, you can’t go wrong with your moe here. Produced by Nexus, this relatively new anime studio so far has only produced a handful of animes like Rakudai Kishi No Cavalry and Onii-chan Dakedo Ai Sae Areba Kankeinai Yo Ne.

The voice acting is rather okay and nothing that extraordinary as the main characters are voiced by relatively new seiyuus. They are Ari Ozawa as Wakaba (Sakura in Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun), MAO as Mao (Akane in Jitsu Wa Watashi Wa), Mikako Izawa as Moeko (Satsuki in Locodol), Rie Murakawa as Shiba (Hotaru in Non Non Biyori), Juri Kimura as Yuzuha (Eruna in Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku) and Azumi Asakura as Otoha (Asia in High School DxD). The opening theme is Hajimete Girls by Ray. At first I thought it was the main quartet singing together but apparently not. Although there is an episode with a version of the quartet. Either way, hearing this song some makes my hair stand on ends! I don’t know. Maybe it is the way this cheerleading-like song that sounds too girly especially when they start singing the opening and chorus lines of “Ippo dashite, ippo dashite~”. Seriously, I just couldn’t stand it.

Overall, not the best anime of the season or will it be remembered in the long run but if you want something casual and funny or perhaps to brighten up your mornings on the weekends, this is the perfect tonic for that perfect relaxing mood for the day. Even though the morning is raining. It won’t take up lots of your time as each episode is around 8 minutes so I’m sure this could be the coffee fix for moe anime fans. It would be nice if this had another season. But too bad I suppose Wakaba didn’t flash her dollar notes at the face of the producers to make more. I mean, wouldn’t she want to continue to be animated in more adventures with her friends? Come on, Wakaba! Flash the cash for another season! Who says money can’t buy you friendship or another season now?

Hello!! Kiniro Mosaic

November 7, 2015

I suppose the genre of cute girls doing cute things is still going strong. Because I noticed that for animes that fall under this category, many are getting a sequel. I figure we can’t get enough of all those sparkly cuteness of the girls and their cute doings, no? Therefore it is with no surprise, Hello!! Kiniro Mosaic has become part of the statics by becoming the second season for the series. All you need to know about this series is about a group of cute girls, 2 of them blondes directly from England having their home stay programme with their Japanese friends. And one of the Japanese girls is a blonde maniac-cum-addict. No, this is not some sick perversion show. If you enjoy seeing cute girls doing cute doings and bonding their friendship in the meantime with no real plot whatsoever, you’ll find this season is no different either. Geez. How many times have I said cute girls doing cute things?

Episode 1
Alice’s mom receives a letter from her about her wonderful stay in Japan. Isami teases Alice’s blonde hair is dull this year and Shinobu actually panics! You don’t joke to her about this kind of things!!! This year will be Alice’s second year in Japan. Starting the new school term, it seems Shinobu and Alice are no longer in the same class. Although Alice has got Yoko for company at least Shinobu has Karen and Aya with her. Because of that, Alice already misses her! Even though they are just a few doors away… They try communicating telepathically. Doesn’t work of course. Aya takes it upon herself to keep an eye on Shinobu and Karen because who knows if their grades slip, it will be big trouble if they stayed back a year. But she too feels lonely without Yoko and visits her class although acting like her usual tsundere mode that she is here for Alice. Karen seems to not really like her homeroom teacher, Akari Kuzehashi. She views her strict and like a tiger waiting to eat her. Don’t look now but there she is right behind you! Kuzehashi reminds Karen of the printouts that she is supposed to hand in. I don’t know what Karen is thinking because she thinks of digging up dirt on her and observes what she does. Hmm… All good things… She is spotted and then reminded again. Despite her strict looks, we hear from Kuzehashi’s side that she actually likes students but thanks to her intense stare at them, they become scared. Her formal suit is to set a model standard so she asks Karasuma for suggestions for her student to like her. Wear bunny ears? She should have known better. Karen is caught again badmouthing her. Karen thought she could be optimistic about it but since Kuzehashi views it as she is not repenting her actions, she gets reprimanded this time.

Yoko and Aya notice Alice and Karen making observations on Shinobu and writing it down in a book. They claim they are fans of Shinobu and want to know her likes and dislikes as well as how she thinks. Alice talks to her first but couldn’t help start flustering the moment Shinobu says she likes her. Aya thought of taking the less direct approach but when asked about the problems she is facing, the plan backfired because Shinobu asks her back and Aya can’t wait to pour it all out. Karen plays detective and brags about the stuffs she knows about her. But Shinobu also knows some stuffs about Karen… Although they have gathered quite some information about Shinobu, Alice views this is not enough. Need more? They start wondering why Shinobu loves blondes and especially foreign countries so much. Was it the home stay at England that kicked start it all? Shinobu reveals that when she was young, she met an old foreign lady who needed directions to the train station. At that time Shinobu didn’t know a word of English and panicked but luckily an English fluent speaking lady came to her help. Ever since, Shinobu became interested to bring people closer via the power of words. But what made her decided to become an interpreter was her home stay with Alice.

Episode 2
Kuzehashi tries to smile… I know we have to give her points for smiling but she looks mean and scaring the students away! Karen then comes up to her to ask for her scrunchie. Turns out they are playing some sort of tag. Now Kuzehashi is mad! Kuzehashi is desperate to get her students to like her as she asks Karasuma for advice. Maybe she should work on her smile… Yup. Still looking menacing. Later Karen gives Kuzehashi some sesame seeds as gift. It only serves to make her feel she doesn’t understand her students. Shinobu invites her friends to her home for an English afternoon tea party. Shinobu is all geared up as a maid but thanks to her clumsiness by spilling drink all over it, I guess she’ll have to get back into her ordinary clothes. Karen is a little late since she will be bringing a cake stand. However she brought a delivery box instead since the other was heavy and thinks this is pretty similar. It is not! As the girls start baking cookies, Yoko’s clumsiness irks Aya and Shinobu tells them to pick up the pace or it will be night fall by then. By the time they are finished, Isami signals that it is dinner time and to save their tea party for tomorrow. So the quintet eat their cookies for lunch at school. As they have made a lot, they give away the extras to others. Karen gives some to Kuzehashi as she notices there are sesame seeds in it. Is this some sort of message? Karasuma thinks this means sesame seeds are the trend among young girls today. So she goes to class making open sesame puns. Only Shinobu plays along… Kuzehashi’s class will be sewing happi coats. Despite her scary facial expression not to mess around, what she actually meant was for them to be careful with the sharp tools. Alice happily makes a wedding head gear till Yoko had to ruin it with a local urban legend that those who do it before their wedding means they will be delaying their own wedding. Now she isn’t so keen on it anymore. As class ends, Kuzehashi felt that she did not make any progress with her students. Karen surprisingly gives her a little tiger mascot she made. All she wants is to see her smile. Kuzehashi might be seeing things because she thought Karen is trying to ‘tame the tiger’. A few days later, the students feel Kuzehashi has been more cheerful and easier to talk to lately. Karen thinks all this is thanks to her and that they are friends now. She pushes her luck by asking her to dance with her but Kuzehashi remembers Karen did not do her homework… Oops… Time to run away from the tiger! Ah well, back to square one.

Episode 3
Shocking news!!! Alice and Karen are not English but 100% Japanese!!! Turns out to be a joke. Phew. Thank goodness. They say England loves jokes that even the newspaper publishes fake articles but Aya tells them about lying too much or some god will tear out their tongue! I hope that’s a joke. Speaking of liars, this reminds Yoko of her little twin siblings, Kouta and Mitsuki. They have a notorious reputation for lying. Suddenly they pop up before them. Say what? They transferred here?! Don’t lie! Truth is they forgot their house key and put up crocodile tears to the teachers to get permission and wait in the infirmary. Aya thinks they also came because they’re lonely and wanted to see Yoko. The twins then say they don’t like their sister and this gives Yoko a big broken heart. After Aya brings them to the infirmary, she says she can tell they were lying that they hate their sister. As long as you are honest, you can get through her. Why do I have a feeling Aya is also trying to say this for herself? As Karen is the only child, she thought of acting out with Shinobu as her big sister. They pretend to fight but Shinobu is so convinced and starts apologizing! When the twins tell Yoko they do not hate her, she doesn’t know if it’s the truth or not but eventually she gives in to sibling love. Later Aya tries to be friendly and get closer with Yoko but since she is too nervous and Aya too dumb to notice, it is all over in a flash.

Because Alice misses her dog, Poppy back home but Shinobu has a fear of them because they can’t stop barking at her, Yoko thought of cheering them up by introducing Aya as her pet! Oh, you don’t know how she is feeling right now. Because of that, Shinobu would gladly be Alice’s dog. However this doesn’t sit well with her. Then her Poppy meter reaches its max and she faints. Karasuma goes to her rescue by putting on dog ears and acting like a dog. Kuzehashi is amazed how she handle the situation so Karasuma reveals to the girls that Kuzehashi has a pet cat. As Yoko asks about Aya what kind of pet she likes, Aya says she doesn’t need any because she has friends like them. It could have been a cool and heart-warming statement had not dumb Yoko start interpreting Aya sees them all as pets! Is this to get back at her? Shinobu thinks of asking Isami to allow the family to have a dog for Alice’s sake but Isami says no because they smell and costs money. Can she reconsider? No means no… That’s it. That’s as far as you go. Later Shinobu makes a dog toy to cheer Alice up. When Alice is running errands, she sees the twins and they whisper something to her. Soon all the friends rush to Yoko’s house because they heard something about her. She could speak 12 languages?! She’s going on a journey as a hero?! She’s going to be married???!!! As expected, they were just lies because the twins wanted to play with them. Nobody could be more relieved than Aya and the twins can tell from her looks that she is more honest today.

Episode 4
When Alice spots Aya in the streets in very adult-like clothes, embarrassed Aya claims she is a mannequin! Alice too once had that problem and she suggests becoming delinquents when she asked Isami why she looks so grownup, her answer was it was probably she wasn’t a ‘good girl’ like them. So the duo start acting like delinquents but they’re hardly threatening. I mean, smoking air cigarettes? Shinobu knows a way to approach them: Give them a banana?! Are they wild animals?! Karen has experience being a delinquent and decides to show them by breaking some glasses but Kuzehashi heard that and goes after her. When Alice thinks of dying her hair black as part of the delinquent process, SHINOBU BECOMES MAD!!! OMG! And because of that, their friendship is strained. Later Shinobu feels bad for saying too much and decides to go apologize. But since she can’t find her, she thinks she has run back to England! Actually she was just getting some juice at the vending machine. The duo make up in no time and back to best friends again. If you’re wondering why Alice doesn’t have Shinobu withdrawal symptoms, it is because Kuzehashi made a life size pillow with Shinobu’s picture on it for her! Karasuma confiscates it (for fear she may fall asleep in class) but when Shinobu enters the teacher’s lounge and sees Karasuma sleeping on that pillow, she gets the wrong idea. Aya is sad that she has cut her bangs too much and is desperate for someone to teach her to grow her hair faster. So desperate that she is watering and treating it like a plant! So desperate that she wears a box over her head! But Aya feels somewhat insulted when Karen places a hair accessory to make it matching hairstyle like hers. As Alice is tending to her plants in the garden club, she is worried that it is not blooming well. Too much sunlight or too much rain may be the factors. Alice starts crying thinking she’ll never make them grow so the friends couldn’t bear to see the blond loli cry and yell at the plants to grow faster! Of course at the end of the day, the plants grow well and they deduce the meaning of marigold as friendship. Till Aya had to ruin it by mentioning its other meaning of envy.

Episode 5
When Isami mistakenly puts salt instead of sugar in their drinks, Shinobu reveals this means she is in a slump. They think of cheering her up by inviting her out with them. Shinobu suggests holding a contest to take pictures and there will be a cash prize for the winner. While Shinobu dresses up like as though she is going to the ball, Isami disguises herself wearing Shinobu’s school uniform. Among the photo shooting spree from the girls at the mall include Karen taking pictures of Kuzehashi who looks different in casual clothes, Karen and Isami take a picture at the photo booth with only Karen making poses but Isami remaining the same, Isami wearing glasses on glasses and Shinobu collecting a heap of English travel brochures that will last her a month of fantasizing. Well, they say your mind is the greatest vehicle to take you to places. When she is about to fall thanks to the weight of the brochures, Isami saves her and in a way, brings her out of her slump. In the end, the winner of the photo contest is Isami as there is a shot she took where all of them coincidentally closed their eyes. In class when Karen shows Karasuma the photos of Kuzehashi, that teacher becomes embarrassed and corners Karen to hand over the film! But hers is a digital camera… Don’t be funny! Alice after reading the folktale, The Straw Millionaire, decides to experiment herself by trading up. She starts out with Isami, trading her kokeshi dolls with a picture whom Isami says will definitely be a good trade to Aya. That picture is one of Aya with Yoko. It is no surprise that Aya wants to pay for it! But eventually she trades it with an animal book. Kuzehashi hasn’t got anything to trade for this book when Karasuma will take it in exchange for her bunny headgear. Alice felt the value just gone down. Even worse, Yoko will trade that for her bottle water. Not just any water, it contains her energy! Don’t you feel cheated? Karen trades that bottle since she is almost choking on a food. But with a diamond ring???!!! Holy cow! And she says it doesn’t cost much but just 10,000 Yen???!!! How rich is she???!!! This causes Alice to feel guilty and perhaps learn the wrong lesson this is a way to get valuable items without effort. When Isami sees this, she wants to trade again. This diamond with what? Will Shinobu do? Gladly! That is so priceless! A win-win-win situation for everybody!

Episode 6
I guess Yoko was so hungry that even when Alice brought a fake sushi, she quickly eats it! Her teeth must hurt. Don’t worry. Karen has a flier where she can eat her fill for free. If she can finish this insane parfait, that is. Yoko takes up the challenge as the girls head to a cafe. Karen’s classmate, Honoka Matsubara who works in this family restaurant is shocked to see her and tries to hide herself via cat mask. Too bad Aya recognizes her voice. Honoka serves Yoko to jumbo parfait and Yoko better finish it because the penalty of not doing so is 8,000 Yen! While Karen and Alice try out wearing the waitress outfit, suddenly Yoko feels she cannot continue anymore… There is more than half left… Defeated?! Meanwhile Karasuma actually finished the entire parfait and tries to sneak out before any students could recognize her. Too bad Honoka is so freaking amazed at her ‘talent’. Honoka and Shinobu form a Blonde Alliance when the former points out there is a strand of blonde hair on her clothes. Because Honoka wants to get Karen’s email address, Shinobu cheers on her but it isn’t easy as it seems. Nervous and all that. Finally when she has got the courage to go ask her, Karen gladly gives her. Honoka has fun texting to her for the first time. But the next day Shinobu sees dark rings around Honoka’s eyes because Karen couldn’t stop texting her the whole night. When Karasuma and Kuzehashi see the girls on their way home, the girls are surprised to learn Kuzehashi once belonged to the athletics club. Maybe that is why she can always catch cheeky Karen when she runs away. Even more surprising is Karasuma who was once from the theatre club. She would gladly give them a demonstration and drags Kuzehashi to act out in this twisted Cinderella story where the poor princess loves to clean everything at her stepmom’s command. Karen then asks what it was like for them being students before. Karasuma shows a picture of her high school days when she didn’t wear glasses yet. This has Kuzehashi remember meeting senior Karasuma for the first time when she was a junior (she accidentally kicked Karasuma’s ass when she was bent down looking for something). And boy, were they the odd friends around hanging out together. Kuzehashi didn’t realize up till now that senior was actually Karasuma! WTF?! After the girls leave, Kuzehashi feel she doesn’t compare much being a teacher to her. But Karasuma believes that her words would have a long lasting impact on them even for the years to come.

Episode 7
Summer is here and Karen thinks wearing sleeveless to school will be cool. Till the friends ‘threaten’ to tell this to her parents that she becomes obedient. Seems Karen fears her mom because she is scary when she is mad. When Karasuma sees Kuzehashi still wearing her suit for summer, she thought of being thoughtful by matching her. But what’s with the bunny getup? It doesn’t take long for Karasuma to faint from the heat. That night, Karen suddenly runs to Shinobu and Alice’s home crying and ranting in English. Seems she had a fight with her dad about some necklace she wanted. He refused and she ran away. So she’s staying here for the night? Don’t worry. Shinobu allows it. The more blondes the better! Even her mom approves! So when Isami comes home, her eyes aren’t playing tricks when she sees double blondes. Alice must feel threatened about her place and tries to match and outdo Karen’s helping around the house. So much so, Shinobu becomes a sad cat as the blondes bond further. Later that very same night, Karen calls to make up with her dad. Even good news with dad has already bought that necklace. Now all the I-love-yous are coming out. Karen shares this happiness by calling all of her friends. Hey, at least she is happy. When Shinobu wants to hear more of Alice and Karen’s days in England, we have a flashback all spoken in English (duh!). Alice was studying Japanese hard and Karen wasn’t amused because this means they weren’t having fun together. When Karen thinks she could get her attention by bringing some Japanese game but never came back, Alice started to worry and went to look for her. She saw a cat having Karen’s shoe and fears the worst. Karen had fallen down a wall slope after a cat distracted her. Her ankle is twisted and it hurts like hell. Night is approaching fast so Karen desperately calls out to Alice in which luckily she heard it. They head home and Karen is very thankful for saving her. That’s what friends are for. Back in present, the blondes continue their bonding and Shinobu can’t help feel left out again. So much so, her worrywart has her call the authorities because a certain blonde still hasn’t come home. It has only been 30 minutes…

Episode 8
Summer vacation will soon be here so Karen and Yoko argue where to go. The sky or the beach? Eventually Karen relents and so the beach it will be. But this only serves to worry Aya because she is not confident of her waistline. Assurances from Yoko only makes her cry harder. The girls hang out at a fast food joint. Alice observes Karen ordering a smile with her food and thought this is what Japanese do and does the same. It made Shinobu laugh nonstop at how cute she was. They notice a couple spilled some food on the clothes so Aya starts fantasizing how great it would be if Yoko would be the one to clean her up. She is in a dilemma to get her clothes dirty that she looks like she’s coming down with some illness. As they talk, they wonder if Alice misses her parents or would like to go visit them during the holidays. Alice can’t bear to leave Shinobu although the latter would love Alice to let her parents know how much she has grown since coming to Japan. She might be using some chicken metaphor but chickens don’t fly even when they have grown up! When Aya mentions the big problem that they haven’t studied yet, Yoko and Karen start putting on glasses. Is this their way to say that they are blind from reality? And when the tests results come out, only Alice and Aya did well. Alice shows Yoko a handkerchief with a black spot in the centre. When she was doing the laundry, she thought of ironing Shinobu’s favourite handkerchief. You can guess what happens next. Alice is afraid that Shinobu will scold her and for each passing moment, finds it hard to apologize to her. Can Kuzehashi do something about it? Nope. Apologize is the only way. Seeing how pitiful she is, Kuzehashi even agrees to go apologize with her. Shinobu must be stumped on what is going on. But with Alice coming clean, the duo make up in no time. All you worried unfounded. Aya didn’t expect Yoko to throw the trash with her so she freaks out so much so it scares them both. Aya helps Alice go shop for a swimsuit. That picture Alice drew… Doesn’t the bikini look like a sumo loincloth? The last obstacle for the day for Shinobu: Showing mom her report card. I take it that running away is her way of telling us she is running away from reality. When she comes home, Isami wants to see it. She shows it. Wow. Lots of praises. Turns out it is Alice’s report card. So where is hers? Suddenly Shinobu starts pleading and begging for forgiveness… What’s with the sudden high drama?

Episode 9
Aya is coming up with a homework schedule for Yoko because throughout the years the same thing always happens. On the last day Yoko will be begging to ask her help on her homework. The problem now is how to hand it to her. Calling her resulted in Aya panting like a stalker. Sending an email about that would make it worse. Making her way there, Aya thinks Yoko may not be at home when she receives a call from her. Aya couldn’t fluster more when Yoko was just behind her. It is a good thing they pass each other since Yoko had the same idea of going to her house. After passing her the schedule, Yoko seems to be staring at Aya instead of starting her work. Although she claims Aya is very girly but she blunders by mentioning about her own chest which is feeling a little tight. Yoko then fools around with Aya, hugging her around. That is when the twins return from their school’s pool and see this freaking ambiguous yuri act. When Aya splits the ice cream to share with Yoko but unevenly splits it, Yoko bites Aya’s bigger portion (because Aya felt bad in having the bigger part) but at the same time causing her to be mad because it’s like an indirect kiss. And Yoko thought she wanted to eat it. Karen might be visiting Shinobu and Alice every day but she’s bored. How about reading? That entire book with only words? Maybe next time. Shinobu reveals her secret that she wants to go to the beauty salon today so Alice fears she might want to dye her hair blonde. Shinobu didn’t actually think about that! The blondes visit Honoka in her tennis club’s practice match. They distract her and Honoka got the ball bounced right into her forehead! Don’t worry. No serious injuries. As they hang out together, Karen uses a fake money bill to wipe her sweat (damn rich girl) and I don’t know why Honoka tries to copy it but uses a coin. When they return home, Alice sees Shinobu’s new look like a kokeshi doll. Personally, I don’t see a difference. Noting that Honoka is here, Shinobu feels she is not dressed for the occasion and returns in a cat maid outfit. When Alice gives Isami her ice cream, it has melted that it is now like soup! So disappointed… The girls play dress up to pass the time. As Karen leaves with Honoka, she invites her to come with the rest to the beach. Unfortunately she has a tennis game then. But she feels she is weak and wonders if Karen knows any good luck charms. I don’t think hypnosis is a good idea… Karen views Honoka good enough to win and worst come to worst, just pray to the sun. On match day, Honoka is doing great. Thank the sun, right?

Episode 10
The girls make their way to the beach via train. The blondes fight over the right to sit with Shinobu who is just in ecstasy in between. But there is no such rivalry for Yoko and why is Aya being such a tsundere? Because she’s Aya… Also at this same beach are Karasuma and Kuzehashi. Although they had lots of work to do, Karasuma mentioned about the new swimsuit she bought and tested it out in her bathtub. Kuzehashi felt pity for her and instantly they were on their way. However Kuzehashi is too technical and cautious which takes out a lot of fun. So we get to see the girls in their swimsuits. Nothing flashy, mind you. But why is Shinobu in her ordinary dress? She thinks she can take on nature like this? Too bad the tidal wave got her. Shinobu must be having bad luck with beaches. She can’t swim, got her leg cramps and is afraid of a harmless hermit crab. Aya takes up Yoko’s challenge to do distance swimming. But the thought that she might drown and Yoko will do CPR on her has her give up before she starts. Yoko thinks she chickened out. Suddenly Alice comes running to them. It seems Shinobu is missing. While Alice went to buy drinks, she might have wandered off. Then the announcement describes Alice as a lost girl. Turns out Shinobu made that report and is still frantically doing so because a certain blonde didn’t come back in 5 minutes!!! WTF???!!! Shinobu almost squeezed her to death… As they stop by the beach house to eat, Aya isn’t sure what to order and will have what Yoko is having. Regret having a big tonkatsu serving? Yeah. Why blame her? After visiting the souvenir shop, they visit the nearby aquarium. Shinobu and Alice watch the ocean as the former notes England is just far away across the ocean. Even if Alice goes home, they’ll still be connected by the sea. Shinobu will take a raft to go see he if she gets lonely. Alice wisely suggests taking a plane. On the way back, Yoko tells Aya she can sleep on her if she’s tired. Flustered Aya denounces that and will absolutely (x100 times) never ever (x1000 more times) do that. Karasuma and Kuzehashi are getting souvenirs but the latter feels it is a shame to go home. So the duo have an extended stay at the beach watching the stars from the hotspring. This is the life.

Episode 11
Karen leaves cryptic messages for Honoka to find her at school so she can give her a surprise. Too bad Kuzehashi found Karen first. She is about to give her usual lecture but Karen lets her ponder over some English riddle to escape. For the next few scenes we see Karen and Honoka hanging out together. Karen then tells her that she and Alice will be leaving for England although it will be just for a week. Shinobu sees Alice marking down the days of their vacation and notices a mark on a certain date. It is the day the blondes will be going back to England. Why look so shock, Shinobu? Didn’t Alice tell you this? Alice starts packing early, suddenly Shinobu jumps into her bag! Holy cow! She can’t fit! But take her along please!!! Alice tries to fit her in! Does not work. At least we know they fail at human trafficking and smuggling. Early next morning, Karen’s dad picks up Alice to head to the airport. And you can tell Shinobu has fast fallen into depression with her blonde withdrawal symptoms. Isami sees how pitiful she is but can’t help laugh after noticing she looks so much like a kokeshi doll this way. The lack of Alice is getting to Shinobu. Proof? She mistakes Aya as Alice just because of her twintails! Aya and Yoko accompany Shinobu in her home and they can obviously see she is breaking down. However Shinobu vows to become stronger so she can greet Alice with a smile when she returns. But I think she is getting the wrong idea of becoming stronger by working out her muscles… More woes for Shinobu because right after she finished bath, she missed a phone call from Alice to say she has touchdown in England safe. He mom picked it up… To calm Shinobu’s insecurities, Aya and Yoko sleepover at her place. Don’t be surprised if they treat her like a child. Remember last season we had that pirate fantasy? This time we have magical girl fantasy! Magical girls, Alice, Aya and Yoko must save Shinobu who has been turned into a kokeshi doll at the wretched hands of evil Karen and the twins as her underlings. In order to defeat them, they must use some forbidden technique. Shinobu wakes up from this pleasant dream and Aya misinterprets what it is and wants to see it.

Episode 12
Alice narrates her times in England when suddenly Shinobu has arrived to visit her! Actually it is Karen in disguise and she is bored fulfilling Alice’s request to play Shinobu. Take it from the top once more! Alice is worried that Shinobu might have forgotten about them albeit it is only a week but could it be that Alice is the one in danger of what Shinobu looks like? I thought the next few scenes felt odd. Because Alice and her mom are conversing in Japanese! I wanted to think it is for the convenience but subsequent scenes show them speaking in English too! Feels funny. English women speaking Japanese… On the morning they are to depart for Japan, Alice’s mom calls Shinobu to let her know. It is night time over in Japan and just when Shinobu is about to doze off, she springs back to life upon hearing Alice’s call! The much needed motivation of the week. I guess Alice is panicking on what to say and rants a long line in English so Shinobu starts off with a simple hello. Karen then switches with Alice to talk but after that hangs up. Alice couldn’t be more disappointed. She wants to talk more. Why not call again? I think international calls via fixed line phones are still expensive. On the morning our Japanese girls are supposed to greet them, Shinobu dresses up in her very best although it is just picking them up from the front of her doorstep. They could be singing reunited and it feels so good because Shinobu gets a week’s worth of blonde squeeze. As they have lots of gifts for them to choose from, Isami chooses a video that Karen recorded on Alice during her depression of missing Shinobu. Alice would gladly talk to Shinobu about her days at England. Till she realizes Shinobu hasn’t touched her homework yet! Not good…

Good news: She somehow finishes it on the morning of the first day of the new school term. Bad news: She only scored 5% for her English test! OMG! How can this be? She loves English and blondes so much and yet failed simple English?! As they discuss what Shinobu’s talents are, here comes Yoko who is feeling depressed. She accidentally tore Mitsuki’s teddy bear’s arm. The fact that made Mitsuki mad wasn’t this but the sloppy repair job Yoko did. Duct tape? No wonder she’s mad. However instantly it is all repaired in Shinobu’s hands. The girls view Shinobu having great talent in clothing designer but Shinobu reminds them she wants to be an interpreter. With that kind of English score? Nobody is going to believe you. But Alice will support her if she wants to be one. And so Alice becomes the strict teacher in making Shinobu study like hell. Don’t worry. A little blonde touch is all the motivation she needs. Karasuma and Kuzehashi see the girls having fun. Kuzehashi regrets wasting her youth only studying. But it’s not too old to do a little high 5, right? When Alice receives airmail from her mom, Shinobu hopes that when she replies, she could also write a reply in English to help practice and reach her goal of becoming an interpreter. So she’s going to use a dictionary while at it? Wouldn’t it be faster if she writes in Japanese and then translate to English?

Cheerio! My Fair (Blonde) Ladies
Well… It was okay. It was fun. Nothing too over the top and nothing too disappointing. Unless you are expecting some sort of drastic changes that would shock any viewers then no. Overall, this sequel feels remains very much the same to its roots from the first season. There aren’t any much changes since except maybe introducing a couple of new characters and more deepening friendship and blonde bonding moments. It is pretty much the same formula that you would expect if you have watched the previous season. Some of the jokes and funny moments are still spontaneous that will make you burst into short quick laughs. This formula keeps the gags fresh rather than falling into the boring trap zone although some do feel a little cliché.

You can still expect to see the main characters remaining the same overall. Like airhead Shinobu who is still a crazy enthusiast in anything English and blonde. The blondes themselves are equally interested in the Japanese culture but not as obviously as crazy Shinobu. Sometimes I feel that this ‘interest swap’ thingy is something similar to Code Geass. A British siding the Japanese to take down his own kind and vice versa. Only difference is that in this series you don’t have that revenge plot and it feels like as though they’re born in the wrong culture and place. Then once bitten by the cultural love bug, they start loving a lot what the other culture has to offer.

Shinobu and Alice’s friendship has grown so much that it is just unthinkable to see them part. It has only been a couple of years but it seemed like an eternity. True friends, no? Just when one is missing from the other for a few minutes, they’ll lodge a missing complaint! Talk about being insecure! But oddly and one thing funny is that, despite the popular trends in today’s social media, you would think that the duo would have somewhat kept in touch using those. But I think the producers want to subtly let us know something more important than relying on social media tools. It is the age old face-to-face friendship that you can see being played out here. No need for fake friends and annoying trolls. Ah yes, true blue friendship in the flesh. So I’m sure they’re trying to pull some heart strings when Alice and Karen return to England for a week by showcasing the emotional drama that Shinobu goes through. A high and low roller coaster ride of emotions. But personally, I felt this was more of funny than tear jerking because you know, it’s Shinobu we’re talking about. And she might want to brush up on her English while at it. At least the blondes take the trouble to speak and improve their Japanese so why can’t Shinobu? Oh, there might be another reason why social media isn’t used but the good ol’ letter: Japan and England are on the opposite sides of the world. Difference in timeline… Be careful not to bother your friend on the other side of the world.

Adding to the fun are the rest of the friends, from Karen’s cheekiness to tomboyish Yoko as well as not forgetting to getting-to-be-so-obvious tsundere Aya. So obvious that it is annoying that you just want to shout it out in her face or smack her to tell her to just confess her yuri feelings for Yoko. I am not sure if Yoko is just being a nice girl to act oblivious to her feelings or just love to see those embarrassed tsundere reactions. Or maybe she is just that dense, that’s all. I don’t remember the twins or Honoka in the first season (I checked they did appear although just cameo as they were listed in last season’s credits) but this time it feels they have more screen time and impact (albeit minimal). Like the twins who have penchant for lying and are even made better liars thanks to their emotionless facial expressions. I wonder where they get this from. Comparing the twins with Yoko is like day and night. I figure Honoka having more prominence this season is to give Karen a pairing so as not to feel ‘left out’. Sure, Karen loves Shinobu but I feel that is only teasing instead of the real deal in Alice who even feels jealous or threatened if her special beloved one is with somebody else! So I thought since we have Shinobu x Alice and Aya x Yoko, don’t want to let Karen be the lonely one out and subtly it could be Karen x Honoka the next time. If they get another sequel.

Kuzehashi is a new character joining in this season but despite her serious approach, she is just deeply misunderstood. At least from the outside. Because deep down inside she just like any other teacher who wants to be loved by her students and a goofy adult whenever you see her get tricked by Karen’s prank or believing/pitying Karasuma’s story/circumstances. Speaking of Karasuma, she is still as dreamy as ever. And Isami is still the cool big sister but don’t fool around with her or make her mad. I have not seen her getting really angry but I have a feeling I don’t want to. So don’t push it when she says no to having a pet or when you better show your report card means you better show your own report card!

Still impressive is the way English is spoken in some of the scenes. Although I won’t go as far as to say they are a masterpiece and that you can’t catch some lines in ‘Engrish’ accent, at least hearing for most of the part doesn’t make you feel that you are hearing a Japanese trying hard to speak English for an English character so much so the failing is obvious. But still, I can’t help feel that the longer Alice or Karen speaks, the more it feels their narration or lines are like as though they are coming from a children’s TV programme. Exactly the same sentiments I had for last season too. But then again, maybe this is the trying part on the voice actresses’ side. They have to make it pronounce and sound clear enough so as not to be passed off as ‘Engrish’. A commendable feat at least for one whose primary language isn’t English.

Even the opening and ending themes retain the similar feel as in the previous season. In addition to be sung by Rhodanthe (the voice behind the main quintet), the opening theme, Yume-iro Parade is equally as vibrant, fun and exciting like last season’s Jumping!! Only difference is that there are a few versions of it. At least for the opening lines. Whether it starts off by the entire group or one of them. You can tell (and hear) when you see either a group picture or a cute mug shot of the girl. My Best Friends as the ending theme gives off that Broadway-like feel similar to Your Voice. But this season there is a special opening theme for that beach episode. Kirameki-iro Summer Rainbow has a different feel since it sounds a bit like country mixed with anime pop.

The sequel is still a fun and entertaining series to watch and those who enjoyed watching the first season would feel right at home here. Even safe for the family and kids to watch. Please note that the beach fanservice episode does not amount to anything that would raise any alarm bells. And yes, no violent blood-spilling limbs-dismembering action. Please do not have unrealistic expectations for such a cute anime and ruin it all. But you can ‘die’ from the overdose of the blonde moe blob moments instead. You have been warned… ;p

The only thing that I expected that didn’t come into realization is adding a new blonde character! Holy cow! Triple blonde treat! I am sure if that happens, Shinobu would die of nose bleed every day. A very happy death indeed. That is why I am thinking for the safety of her health, she can never travel to western countries or live among blonde people. But you know, seeing how Shinobu can sometimes be obsessed into taking things into her own hands if left to her own devices, she might just dye everybody’s hair blonde and make it a mandatory requirement if she ever becomes the head of Japan. And then you have blondes and not-blondes trying to un-blonde everything. Wow. Just feels like escalating towards Code Geass scenario. If that ever happens, that would be like taking blonde to a whole new level. Then it would be scary rather than cute.

Little Busters! EX

November 6, 2015

What happens when you have minor but likeable supporting characters? You give them a short spin-off of their own! And so this is the case that some of the girls in Little Busters that fall under this category who do not get enough love of the screen time are going to get some of that they deserve in Little Busters! EX. Yeah, what a way to acknowledge that they aren’t just unimportant characters that nobody cares by giving their own story, background or even adventure with the main character of the series. Heck, they should have been part of the main gang but I suppose too many cooks spoil the broth and that is why you have to resort to this. Okay, I just made that up but those are mainly my sentiments why this special series is created in the first place. Sort of. Enough of me talking. Time for these girls to shine.

Episode 1
Saya Tokido is seen shooting shadow monsters in the school’s hallways. When Riki learns Masato borrowed his notebook and left it in his desk in class, he decides to retrieve it. But he is quickly pinned down by Saya who tells him to run to the nearest exit. After he does so, he remembers about the notebook and returns to get it. He only finds Saya’s student ID. Next day he goes to return it in her class. He has a strange nostalgia of meeting her before despite this is the first time seeing her. Later he receives a mail to meet at the rooftop. Right away she tells him he will die a pitiful death. Excuse me? Because he has been wandering around the halls at night, he will be captured and interrogated by Darkness Executives. Saya becomes embarrassed when she gets to know he only realized that was her back then. After flustering, she tells him he will die now and initiates the start of the game. She pushes him off the ledge and tries to make him fall. Masato is passing by and thought he is rock climbing! Riki puts his trusts in him and falls off. He wakes up in bed in his room while thinking the events that has just happened. Thinking this is a game by Kyousuke, Riki confronts him to stop this. However he becomes serious and warns him never to speak of Darkness Executives again because they know his weakness and is for Rin’s safety. Riki thinks he shouldn’t let others get involved in this when the shadows start attacking him. As he runs to the clubroom, he gets caught in a trap. He is about to be strangled by the noose if not for Kengo cutting him down. Riki thinks Saya is out to kill him and making it look like suicide. So he thought he is going to take action but what can he do with a baseball bat when the enemy starts dropping electric poles and water balloons!

Riki manages to get to safety in his room but Saya is waiting there. She has decided not to kill him as she considers him lucky for avoiding all her traps. She wants him to team up as her partner. Otherwise he’ll be food for the Darkness Executives. At first she sounds confident when he didn’t need her help. But shortly she returns and threatens him to team up because she is an unlucky girl. Join her or die! Hey, she says she is unlucky, right? Does that mean he won’t die by her shot? But they have to run when the shadows appear. Wanting to know more about her, Saya explains she is a spy and is enrolled in this school to find a hidden revolutionary treasure. Those Darkness Executives are believed to be students or alumni of this school tasked with dealing with the problems behind the scenes. Since they are able to project their shadows, their real body is elsewhere. Saya has found the room where it would lead to the hidden treasure. She wants Riki to stay cover her while she tries to find a way in. Examining the different pressure plates on the floor, Riki deduces the way to solve this is to stack a pyramid on it using the furniture. The Darkness Executives show up as Riki gets his first taste in kill. Don’t worry. They’re not humans to begin with. Saya has found a big hole behind the wall. Time to go down this hole.

Episode 2
Inside the labyrinth, there are a few doors to choose from. Saya wants him to choose the one that will lead them the next floor. The rest are just death traps. Hey, he is the lucky kid, right? Unfortunately, every door they open they encounter traps till they finally slide down a hole. Riki might consider all that as bad luck but to Saya, they’re alive aren’t they? The mission is put on hold for now when Saya’s stomach growls. Can’t go on without an empty stomach? So Riki is willing to ditch hanging out with Masato just to go join Saya? As they go get food, she hints she has never played the crane machine before and before you know it, she’s already addicted to it and won several prizes. Having fun for a spy? Must be embarrassing to realize all that, eh? Next night, they continue their mission as Riki observes her clumsiness and flustering. Yeah, so cute that it just makes you want to protect her, no? So is it really fun to be dragged around by her? They come to a point where they need to find the right tile to trigger a path down. Darkness Executives are already here as Saya keeps them at bay while Riki finds the opening. Not only he manages to do that, he even saves Saya from the face of death. Wow. A few shots and Riki is a pro shooter already. In the next level, they stumble upon a hotspring. Too tempting to clean yourself? Well, Saya goes in first and if Riki turns around, she’ll kill him. They both start imagine like this is an open hotspring when suddenly a cold drip of water drops on Saya. She screams. Riki turns back thinking she’s under attack by Darkness Executives. Nothing shadowy but the glowing sight of holy fanservice! Louder scream? Don’t worry Saya. Riki claims he didn’t see anything. Anything… As they take a break, Saya mentions how she will be whisked away to another mission once this one ends. That is how it has always been. The duo then faintly remember about each other. They have indeed met before. When she starts crying, Riki remembers that he once loved her since long ago.

Episode 3
As they move on, Riki has lots of questions regarding the treasure and who Saya really is. In the next room they are faced with a stone guardian. I don’t think the pea shooter is doing it any good. Or that sword Riki found on the ground and repetitively hitting it. It’s like bug bite to that big thing. Saya sees a keyhole and has Riki toss that ‘sword’ to her. Once she inserts it, the giant crumbles. As she has sprained her leg, he carries her. Idiotic flustering mode… Start! After all that, she reveals she also likes him and tries to kiss him! But it shocks her when he evades her so now she wants to kill him. Or herself? Riki calms her down by telling her to close her eyes. A real kiss… But subsequently the idiotic flustering continues with Saya even making up gibberish words and illogical stuffs to ‘cancel out’ her embarrassment. WTF. They make their way to the final room where the strongest boss of this world, Shun Tokikaze who is also the leader of Darkness Executives awaits. They discuss what will the final treasure be and Saya believes it is a time machine. She wants to go back in time to redo everything again and meet him once more. She suggests if this mission ends successfully, please go on a date with her. I guess that is the motivation to finish this job. Now here comes Shun (sounding very familiar…) and since this is her fight, Saya will only face him alone. Riki has a bad feeling he will never see her again after this but she manages to convince him that they won’t reach the treasure if they don’t follow the rules. Steel bars separate them as Riki can only watch helplessly Saya’s gunfight with Shun. She gets shot and dies in her own pool of blood. Saya narrates she lost the game and died again. It has been the 99th time she’s been playing this. She chooses to play again. Everything restarts. It goes back to the scene where Riki is in the school hallway and Saya pins him down to tell him to escape. As he runs, she claims Riki will always be her one and only partner.

Episode 4
Saya narrates her tragic past. She never knew her mother and her father is a doctor who treated the poor and sick in war torn countries. Because she followed him around, the only relief is a manga named School Revolution a Japanese volunteer had brought. Once her father’s term ended, they return to Japan and she never knew how peaceful it was. She used to play a lot with Riki but one day a heavy rain caused a landslide in which Saya was killed and buried underneath it. Now Saya has been repeating this game so many times that she is worried if Riki still loves her. Don’t worry. Each time he has never failed to say those magical words. But each time she repeats, it means she will die. WTF is she doing?! In her latest confrontation with Shun, he mentions as a game master of this world, she is an anomaly that will disappear sooner or later. That is why she needs one more time to replay this game. The next time they reach Shun, she uses Riki to disguise as herself but this doesn’t food Shun. But this is part of Saya’s plan to use Riki as her shield because she has done her little research and knows very well Shun will not shoot Riki. Shun will prove her wrong but Riki fires his gun. He heard 3 gunshots fired simultaneously. Saya only has a flesh wound and Shun is down for the count. As reward for beating him, he tells them to take the elevator to the most bottom floor where the treasure awaits. Don’t worry. There are no more traps or tricks.

At the 60th floor, there seems to be a lab room. After locking Riki out and she looking around, suddenly her hand starts to bleed. Riki is in distress as Saya wants him to calm down and listen. The treasure is a biological weapon. This is also where they part. The route where they meet always leads her to a bad end. Saya remembers her previous bout with Shun. She has realized the truth of this world. She is just a character that appeared in School Revolution. Without realizing it, her soul wandered into this world and started acting like her. Saya is sad that she has been trying so hard and to die without knowing what it’s like to fall in love is just unfair. Saya knew Shun was kind enough to let her go on till she is satisfied because he could have gotten rid of her any time he wants. As the treasure in the manga has not been revealed yet, it could mean the treasure can be anything she wished for. She wants it to be a biological weapon so she can complete her mission before disappearing from this world. Saya thanks Riki for being with her and then shoots herself in the head. Riki wakes up crying in his bed. Kyousuke is next to him. Riki tells him about the important partner he had but lost her. He replies he heard about the Darkness Executives being overconfident and thus Saya escaped. The time machine that was being guarded is also gone and there were signs that it was being used to get away. Riki is relieved and he hopes they’ll meet again one day. Saya wakes up in a hospital tent. She is a little girl who goes by the name of Aya. She talks to her dad about this dream she had. An adventure in the underground labyrinth and the partner she had whom she loved. Father knows that boy will come to play with her again. We see her going off to play with young Riki.

Episode 5
When Rin and Riki notice a stray black cat in their class, they follow it out and it seems it takes a liking for Sasami. She is embarrassed to be seen this way especially when Komari almost busted their secret. Rin gets blamed for this? Later as Komari explains, this stray cat that they found was weak and they took turns taking care of it. That night as Riki goes to get juice at the vending machine, the cat comes up to him and even follows him back to his room. Because Masato picks it up and ‘confirms’ this is female, he gets scratched in the face. When Kud and Mio enter, they see this ambiguous yaoi scene of Riki and Masato! He’s just checking his face for injuries, by the way. Mio feels something is strange with the cat but brushes it off thinking it is just her imagination. In the dead of the night, Riki gets a rude awakening from Sasami. His scream wakes up Masato in which Sasami turns back into a cat again. That muscle head checks her out as a female again and gets scratched once more. This turns Sasami back but as soon as she tries to leave the room, she turns back into a cat. Oddly this time, Riki can understand what she says. They discuss the source of the problem. It could be that she turns into a cat whenever she tries to leave the room? Or maybe like when Masato regains conscious, she poofs back into a cat. You mad, girl? Big guy is scared of you now. Thanks to that, Masato is ‘kicked out’ and has to stay somewhere else temporarily. Yeah. Riki chose the cat over muscles.

Sasami is back in human form once Masato leaves. She wants to call her roommate to tell she won’t be coming back but turns back into a cat. Komari cannot understand what the cat is saying and this is confirmed that only Riki can understand her. Riki answers on Sasami’s behalf and this makes Komari think they’re having a secret tryst. Sasami is mad but all Komari can hear are angry meows. Next morning, Riki tries to get help and he thinks Rin is the best person who knows all about cats. Sasami couldn’t be more insulted when Rin gives her cat food! Get out! Riki better get his ass moving and get her proper food! But how can you enjoy your meal in peace when you know you’ll turn into a cat? It’s pitiful to have her think that she’s turning into a shut-in. But she gets the optimism to go around and find other people who could understand her. None. Not even her friends. Sad. Finally there is Komari. Riki tells what happened and she confirms it with a quantity question that only Sasami knows. From time to time, Komari would bring fresh clothes into Riki’s room for Sasami to change. Well, he almost walked into one. This pops up the question of why Sasami’s clothes are also transformed along with her. No, he isn’t a pervert who wants to undress her, mind you. As they find this phenomenon strange, Riki deduces that they may have wandered into a strange world. Riki gets a call from Rin that Komari is missing.

Episode 6
Riki won’t tell Sasami so as not to worry her. Based on his experience from the strange world (during the Refrain season), he tells her this world will only disappear if its wish is granted. It sounds ridiculous but what grounds does Sasami have to reject him? She places his faith in him to help her and he has got the cheek to say how much it sounds like a marriage proposal! Next day in class, Riki notices Rin and Komari still missing. Something is odd. Kengo knows something is wrong but Riki won’t tell him since he fears he might disappear if he does. Sasami is cooking in Riki’s room and she is proud of it. And then just feeling embarrassed that she’s feeling so. So which is it? Riki asks Sasami about her past as he couldn’t picture her as someone who truly hates cats. She explains long ago she once found a stray black cat and took it in as her own. One day the family was to move but she couldn’t find the cat anywhere. She never saw it again and believes it has died. She thinks it has come to hate her for abandoning it. Riki thinks that perhaps it is Sasami’s strong wish that is unknowingly creating this world. Perhaps if she goes to talk to Kengo (the person she likes), something could happen. At first she is against this but if you won’t know if you don’t try. She is not as pathetic as she claims to be. Unfortunately the next day, she couldn’t. As she is a cat, she immediately runs away at the mere sight of him. But the strange thing is that Kengo can understand her. Just as he believes this cat is Sasami, Kengo suddenly turns into smoke and disappears! It crushes all the theories that Riki has believed in. Sasami is sad that Riki didn’t tell her about Komari’s disappearance earlier on. But there is a bigger problem looming. They notice outside the school gates, everything is white. This world might be vanishing and the creator’s power isn’t going to last. They can try to exit through the cat but there is fear that Sasami might stay in this cat form if she does.

That night as Riki thinks hard, she sees that black cat before him. Then he understands. The cat is the creator of this world. This isn’t just a dream but fragments of Sasami’s memories. Riki sees Sasami taking in the cat and naming it Kuro. They were very close. Until that fateful day. Fast forward a few days ago where Komari and Sasami found the stray black cat and the latter upon seeing it said it had nothing to do with her and that she hates cats after all. Riki then tells Sasami about this. Kuro didn’t die but survived as a stray. They even met in school recently although she didn’t recognize it. So does it want revenge? He thinks it wants to meet her. However when they head to the supposed place, there is a barrier preventing Sasami from getting closer. She feels sad as they both head to the exit to get out of this world. However Sasami only pushes Riki through it and says that this is her responsibility and thus she must bear alone. Of course Riki won’t allow this selfishness and thus breaks through whatever is holding him back and into his room where Sasami is sitting around waiting for her fate to come. With words of motivation, she agrees to go see Kuro again. She thinks back of their times together and the words that she always loved to hear: “I’m here”. Realizing Kuro has always remembered them, the barrier disappears and Sasami is able to touch Kuro. They spend their last moments together before Sasami reminds Kuro that it’s time to say goodbye. Riki wakes up in bed in tears. Sasami is also back in the real world and despite still sad over Kuro’s departure, she knows she is supposed to smile after crying.

Episode 7
Little Busters are having their own kick the can competition. Before it begins, it already ends because Haruka scores an own goal, giving Riki’s team the win. Suddenly a couple of public morals girls chase after Haruka because she ditched her duty in collecting trash cans. How convenient. Here’s one. Kanata reprimands her girls because they were breaking their own rules by running in the hall and then reminds Haruka to go pick up cans after school. Kyousuke tells Riki that some of the clubrooms are being redistributed and theirs is on the list. Of course he has planned to use politics to leverage out of this and has sent his Little Busters to go help out other clubs and earn some points. This means Riki has to go help Kanata with her paperwork. They talk about things and when he mentions the lonely task she is doing, she believes other people are of no concern to her as long as she can protect what is important to her. Kanata continues to put up her strict front in front of everyone. Then she meets some girl about some initial agreement. It seems Kanata has not told Haruka yet because she believes she does not need to know. Riki continues to help out Kanata around the school and although she finds his casual character annoying, she is still going to let him help her out after school for errands. They stop by a burger joint. He notices she doesn’t like pickles but is okay with the ketchup. In fact she likes any kind of red fruits like apples. Speaking of which, she reveals her name means apple of the field. On the way back, Riki is concerned that she always calls him on his full name and that gives a bad impression. She admits she does. She tries pronouncing his surname but it just feels odd. Next day, Riki sees Kanata teaching Haruka how to bake. Kanata has practised saying Riki’s name so she is better this time. It made her embarrassed when she revealed this. Later, the fire alarm rings. Looks like somebody’s cooking fire got too big and activated the sprinklers. Kanata immediately jumps in to put out the fire with her blazer. Because her shirt is now wet, everyone can see hideous marks on her body. Kanata goes into trauma mode. I guess it must have been so traumatic that she needed to run outside to vomit. Riki wanted to console her but she is trembling in fear and won’t allow him to touch or get near her.

Episode 8
Kanata wants to be left alone. Next day, Kud is very worried about her and even more disheartening is how rumours have spread throughout school that Kanata’s marks are from abuse. Her concentration in class or anything dips. When Kanata meets that girl, we learn that Kanata was supposed to be in some marriage meeting but got beaten up because she screwed up. Haruka heard this and is furious. How she doesn’t know about this? Kanata won’t say anything but the girl tells Haruka that she will be getting married by the end of summer and become the heiress to both households. Although this means she will never be able to leave, she is doing this for Haruka’s sake. While Kanata is practising her sword in the rain, flashback reveals Kanata won against Haruka in some comparison competition. But Kanata was devastated to see Haruka being mistreated like hell despite this was not part of the promise. She did not like this one bit. But her father (or uncle) tells her she can save her sister by throwing away her future. He promises not to even hurt her. Kanata after some deliberation agrees to the conditions. After Kanata is taken to the infirmary, Riki and Haruka talk to her but she remains defiant that she does not need anyone’s help. She feels she doesn’t need to be protected because nobody came to her rescue. What good would it do now? Riki has some nice words. Haruka has some too. Plus a little sisterly hug. She tells her she doesn’t need to get married and if their relatives come looking for trouble, they’ll drive them away. I hope it is easier done than talking. Shortly after Kanata gets her confidence back, that girl comes to kidnap her and usher her into the family’s limo. Riki and Haruka are too late to catch her. Because that girl’s job is just to bring Kanata to them, she doesn’t mind telling them about tomorrow’s programme for Kanata’s marriage meeting. Riki and Haruka seek Kyousuke’s help to save her. Don’t worry. Little Busters are more than happy to gate crash the party. They plan out the diversion to snatch Kanata from the room, including Kyousuke and Rin acting as their decoys. The plan goes well till at a safe distance, Kanata wonders if this is the right thing for them to do because the household is not going to let this slide. Haruka doesn’t care and doesn’t want her to go back there. That isn’t her home. Coming with her is the better ending. After little sister said all that, you still have doubts? F*ck all your worries and just go with her! That’s right. Kanata finally decides to go with her. Soon everybody converges at the river bank. Mission success.

End Of Mission?
Well, these short stories are extra fun and addition to the 2 seasons of the Little Busters TV series. Even if you haven’t watched them and jump straight in to this one, you won’t lose much but still it is better to go watch the TV series to understand better about why strange occurrences happen in this world. Overall, it brings a satisfying end to the Little Busters series. Unless they are going to make some more out of it in the future, which I don’t see it happening of course. But you’ll never know…

As already said and known beforehand, these little specials give more prominence to the minor female characters in the TV series. Their unique personalities make them likeable like Saya who is a bundle of emotions with a penchant for jumping to conclusions whenever she flusters. Funny girl. That is why they call assume as ASS-U-ME. Get it? Checking back my previous blog on the series, I remember that there was no such character called Saya appearing in both seasons. Not that I noticed. So I thought they created a new character. Doing a little research (read: lazy browsing over the internet), I discovered that Saya did appear but in very short blink-or-you’ll-miss cameo appearances. That is why I figured they dedicated half of the episodes to her to make her proper and official debut. So proper and official that the other girls in Little Busters do not even have a decent appearance! Actually they do but it is for just one short stinking scene and they do not even have a single dialogue. Yeah. They’re trying to pull some heart strings by showcasing her heart wrenching moments spent with Riki. I guess everything is okay as long as it ends well despite her ending is pretty much left to viewers’ discretion.

Therefore I thought Saya replaced A-chan as the heroine for this season although the latter did make her appearance in Kanata’s arc despite her role just feels like secondary. Better than not appearing at all, eh? It goes without saying that since this season is all about the secondary heroines, our main heroines from Little Busters are not given much prominence. A handful of scenes of them just to remind us they are still the same girls that we know. Like who wouldn’t go “Awww…” each time we see and hear extremely moe Kud go “Wafu!” and Haruka’s cheekiness in causing trouble. And there is of course the resident idiot Masato. This muscle head should also get a spinoff of his own seeing he is a pretty funny guy. But hey, unless you are a yaoi fan, there isn’t any point in putting a guy’s route in such visual novel genre.

Although I want to say this special is about Riki and the secondary heroines, it is mainly only confined to Saya’s arc. Basically for Sasami’s arc, despite Riki is still prominently featured, it is actually more of Sasami and Kuro. Finally for Kanata’s arc, Riki feels a bit secondary since the heavy focus is between the sisters. Though, I feel Kanata’s arc is a bit rush including the climax of the gate crashing and everything. What do you expect with only a couple of episodes? Kanata has got so much heavy drama and weight on her shoulders that it could sink her to the bottom of the ocean.

Another good reason to watch the second season of the series is to also understand better the timeline of the stories of these heroines. As those who have watched, at the end of Refrain, the truth of everything is pretty much revealed about this strange mysterious world. So if you haven’t watched it, you’re wondering in which timeline the stories take place. Heck, I don’t think you’ll be asking that question if you haven’t seen them. But for those who do, you can at least make a guess when it took place. Like for Saya, her arc occurs before the start of the Refrain saga, Sasami after that and Kanata in between.

If you like this series especially with Key-style drama and emotions during and at the end of each story, you’ll be glad to know that these specials have not lost their touch in bringing them all out with their storytelling. Although it gets a bit repetitious a while seeing it follows a somewhat same pattern of Riki helping out a girl in focus with her problems that includes her haunting past as well as getting clues in discovering the truth of this world. But nevertheless with the varied and unique personalities of each girl, you’ll find them refreshing and interesting. To conclude what this entire series is about, everybody has got their own little problems to deal with. Sometimes you can’t deal them by yourself and need the help of your friends. After all like they say, a true friend is one who helps you up after a fall. But a best friend is one that laughs at you when you slip and tumble. And then help you up.

Yama No Susume S2

September 5, 2015

I guess Japanese love their mountains so much that they even made a Mountain Day public holiday to appreciate the beauty of those summits! No kidding. But that holiday will only take effect in August 2016 once the legislation of it is passed. Therefore I am guessing that to celebrate this awesome new future holiday, the reason why Yama No Susume got a second season. Even more awesome is how this anime is ‘doubled’. Originally the first season only had a dozen episodes worth only 5 minutes each. But with this second season, they get twice all that with 24 episodes of 12 minutes each! Wow. Only very few animes get such treatment whereby their second season have more episodes like the first (Aria The Animation and K-ON! to name a few). The plot (if you consider there should be any) of this season remains the same and is about those mountain loving girls trying to conquer a handful of mountains in Japan one step at a time. But with one of them with fear of heights, isn’t this a big irony or a big fear factor challenge?

Episode 1
Despite only a dream, Aoi accuses Hinata for leaving her behind on the snowy mountain trails to head to the summit herself! In this opener, our girls teach us how to set up an outdoor camp. Initially when Aoi told her mom that she is going camping with her friends, she wasn’t too pleased since it would be dangerous as all of them are girls. So she compromised by allowing her to camp at Hinata’s backyard. Kaede and Kokona soon join them once the tent is up. More lessons on how to cook outdoors especially rice. Nature isn’t going to provide you with any gas stove, you know. Funnily after dinner, Hinata is the one who head to take a bath first while leaving her friends to wash up. Night falls, although it first seemed spacious inside the tent, when all 4 of them cram inside, it is a little bit tight. No space to move. Kaede’s experience tells her it won’t be a problem because everyone will be exhausted from the day and just sleep like a log. When you have girls staying up late together, expect to hear love stories. Too bad, it is nothing like the romance we hope for. Their love lies in some other stuffs like mountains and mascots but not boys. Then another dream whereby Aoi has to carry sleeping Hinata to the top. Hinata moving about in her sleep woke Aoi up. She goes out to see the sunrise. It brings back memories. Aoi wonders if the view would be more beautiful on Mt Fuji. This outdoor camping was fun and she hopes to do a real one in the mountains the next time.

Episode 2
Hinata calls Kaede and Kokona for a secret meeting. After hearing Aoi’s wish, they plan to surprise her with a mountain trekking that will have a view of Mt Fuji. They check through the catalogue of mountains, each with their own climbing difficulty and popularity. It is decided that for the best view of Mt Fuji for their capability would be from Mt Mitsutouge. Later Hinata calls Aoi to meet up at a station. Their destination will be a secret. During the journey, it will be hard for them to keep Mt Fuji hidden from Aoi’s view. I mean, the mountain is so big, right? But thankfully, Aoi slept during the train ride and the rest easily distracted her whenever Mt Fuji was ‘dangerously in sight’. As they walk up the trails, they pass by several monuments from shrines that pray for climbers’ safety and beautiful waterfalls. But the real path towards Mt Mitsutouge begins. Aoi is a little worried but since Hinata insisted there is something important at the end of the trail, she can’t wait to see it.

Episode 3
Trekking up the path is no easy feat. Then there is a small gap in the forest that has a clear view of Mt Fuji. Aoi saw it and then she realized this is perhaps what Hinata wanted to show her. For now she’ll feign ignorance and play along. But as they get higher, the trail becomes steeper and more difficult. Aoi is tired and it has become no more fun. Luckily experienced climber Kaede has what it takes to motivate her to get back on her feet. She lets her have some chocolates and tells her to walk at her own pace. Because the rest won’t enjoy themselves if she isn’t. Aoi is given hiking poles to help climb better. Then there is a treacherous stretch. Narrow and steep. One wrong move and it’s a long way down. Aoi is scared but with her friends motivating her, she takes it one step at a time till she reaches the other end. Then they finally get to see Mt Fuji. It’s nothing like you see in the pictures. All that hard work made the view even more beautiful and worth it. It’s not over yet as they still need to reach the summit which isn’t that far.

Episode 4
At the peak of Mt Mitsutouge, Aoi is awed at the sight of Mt Fuji. Hinata is glad because this is the first time she has seen her this happy. Like all good things, it must come to an end. Now the quartet have to make their descend and Aoi feels a little sad to say goodbye. Kaede suggests going to a hotspring once they reach ground level but Aoi is scared as she is embarrassed to go in with everyone. The journey down is a lot harder and it is taking a toll on Aoi and Kokona’s knees. They’re aching all over. But Hinata is alright since she is wearing knee supports. There is a sign to watch out for bears but Aoi is so tired and aching all over that she couldn’t care. Because even reaching ground level, the journey to the next station seems like forever. Once the hotspring is spotted, the girls rush in, leaving Aoi behind. I guess her aching muscles are making her turtle and by the time she undresses and everything, she is told she needs to clean herself, etc. Fine. Can she go in now? It is the best refreshing feeling ever. Then the embarrassment starts to get to her once she is feeling much better. She is sitting at a corner alone. Her friends think she is embarrassed so she stood up and denies. Hinata thought she lost some weight after all that walking but looks like she did not. Aoi fell asleep and dreams about … Bears! On the last train home, they see the evening view of Mt Fuji. Aoi thanks her friends and would love to experience more of such feelings. Tough but fun.

Episode 5
Aoi is talking how Hinata always drags her into her misfortune in the past and looks like one is coming up. Hinata tripped on a stone and accidentally pulls down Aoi’s skirt! Kindergarten kids these days are smart enough to know what polka dots look like… It’s big time embarrassment for Aoi and of course this means Hinata has to go to her house to apologize. She can pull her skirt if she wants to. Seriously? She’s sulking but only for a short while. Let bygones be bygones. It’s not the end of the world. When Aoi goes to get drinks, Hinata spots something Aoi was knitting and messes with it. Oh sh*t. What the heck did you just do? Aoi is definitely not happy and you can tell she is absolutely upset as she kicks her out of the house. Hinata thought she’ll be back to herself by tomorrow but it’s worse than she thought. She’s not talking to her. Hinata talks this to Kokona who reveals a big secret. Aoi was knitting a hat as a surprise gift for her as thanks for showing her Mt Fuji. Kokona knows because she helped chose the wool. Aoi and Hinata have not talked since and opportunities for them to reconcile dwindle. One day, Hinata is at Aoi’s home and although the latter is happy, she acts like she is still sulking. Hinata then surprises her with a knitted hat as her surprise gift to make up. She heard it from Kokona and had her teach her how to knit. That is why they couldn’t see each other often in and after school. With their friendship patched up, Hinata is devastated that Aoi isn’t going to finish that hat and give it to her. The surprise is gone. Call it karma because this time Aoi trips and accidentally pulls down Hinata’s skirt! Kids these days know what bears look like. How does it feel to be this embarrassed? Hey, Aoi said sorry. And she did say she could pull down her skirt, right? Oh, you mean that was a joke? Come on. She apologized. It’s not the end of the world! Right back at you…

Episode 6
Hinata’s dad is explaining how he climbed Mt Fuji during the night and viewed the breathtaking scenery. It was like in a different world. Even more awesome was the sunrise. Because of dad, Aoi wants to climb Mt Fuji with Hinata. They check out some climbing equipment since it could get pretty cold and dark during the ascend. However the down jacket is too expensive and Aoi can’t afford it. She remembers her mom has one and would borrow from her. However when mom learns about her night climbing, she is against it and even brings up her recent slip in grades. Anyway, she forbids her to do night climbing. Because of that, Aoi becomes a sad cat. Father learns about it and talks to her that mom is worried since she is their only child. He understands her love for climbing and if she really wants to go climbing, she needs to convince and reassure mom that there is nothing to be worried about. So Aoi starts her pestering convincing till mom agrees and lends Aoi her down jacket. Seeing her love something this much, she must have become stronger.

Episode 7
Hinata shows Aoi the river where she hopes everyone can go swimming in their sexy swimsuit. Aoi definitely can’t ask her mom about it and not wanting to lose out, she goes to pick one herself but flusters greatly at every revealing one. Heck, she thought one is invisible when it is only just the hanger! The day to go swimming is here but a typhoon builds up. Next day, the weather is fine but the current is flowing too swiftly. Next day, Hinata becomes sick! Bad luck?! A few days later, everything is fine to go swim. Hinata teases the rest that they are embarrassed to strip because they are wearing sexy swimsuit underneath. To their surprise, Kaede reveals she cannot swim. When Hinata steps into the water, it is so freaking cold that she gives up swimming here. So how? They all go swimming in their own makeshift pool in their backyard. So everyone reveals their swimsuit and Aoi’s is so mild. You call this sexy? Even more surprising is Hinata because she is wearing a school swimsuit! How is that sexy?! She made it sexy by wearing it!!! Oh Hinata! You crack me up!

Episode 8
The girls make plans since they’re going to climb Mt Fuji soon. Aoi and Hinata didn’t think they need to bring snacks since it’ll make them fat but Kaede lectures them about the need to bring rations as they will burn lots of calories while climbing. So they go buy some food and also other stuffs while keeping in mind not to pollute the area. Aoi is worried about the climb and as Hinata suggested, she calls Kaede that night. She relays her painful experience in her climbs. Each time she thought about giving up but didn’t. As time passes, only happy memories remain and those painful ones will eventually fade. This won’t be possible had she given up. This gives Aoi confidence that you can’t see fear and will only understand when it hits you. Right now, all she can do is push on. Now she can’t sleep because she is excited. Start counting sheep… Well, she counted up till 12,552!!! I wonder if she’ll be okay as she meets her pals early next morning.

Episode 9
The girls begin their climb of Mt Fuji. After taking a bus to the base, Kaede explains the different stations and climbing difficulty of each ascend. She also warns of altitude sickness to more you climb higher. After eating ramen, Aoi and Kokona buy climbing staves to help their climb and also collect different stamps from the stations. They make slow but steady progress to the top. Kaede’s tip protector came off and since it is expensive, everyone helps look but find several other broken tip protectors. I guess it happens a lot. Aoi is feeling the pinch as she climbs higher. But when she takes a look at the great view, it gives her the encouragement to continue. One step at a time.

Episode 10
The climb is getting more taxing for Aoi. She is starting to feel tired. When they reached the 8th station, Aoi is already experiencing altitude sickness that she can’t talk or move. Kaede will stay here with her as she asks Hinata and Kokona to continue their climb and will catch up with them. Aoi is ‘grounded’ on this station as she sleeps for a few hours. A few rowdy climbers were noisy but with Kaede signalling them to pipe down, nothing untoward happened. By 2am, Aoi wakes up and although still dizzy, she starts panicking that they need to climb now or they can’t see the sunrise. They’ve prepared hard for this and don’t want it all to go to waste. Kaede tells her not to push herself. Otherwise she can’t go home. The mountain isn’t going anywhere and they can take this challenge up any time. Kaede messages to the duo to continue their climb for Aoi’s sake. They see the beautiful stars of the Milky Way but the skyline’s colour is soon changing. Hinata and Kokona hurry to the top while Aoi continues to sleep and feels of wanting to go home and sleep in her own comfy bed.

Episode 11
Hinata and Kokona manage to reach the top to see the sunrise. Likewise, Kaede also calls Aoi to view the sunrise from where they are. She gets up and does so despite her heart and body really wanting not to move. Although awed at the view, she is left wondering of her yet so near, yet so far conquest. Kaede advises Hinata and Kokona to circle the basin and reach the highest peak since they are already there. She will trek down with Aoi and meet up at the base. The walk is slow but even so, Aoi’s depression continues. Still tired, her legs hurt and even more baffling is how Kaede can still be happy when she is the one causing so much problems. It really zaps the motivation and enthusiasm out of her. Once they reach the base and waiting for the bus, Aoi calls her mother who is worried that she sounds really awful. Despite Aoi calling her attempt a failure, mother views it as she has tried her best. Aoi can’t understand why she is trying to cheer her up that she feels guilty and doesn’t have the guts to face her. Her depression is so bad that it makes Hinata and Kokona worry. It just dampens the mood.

Episode 12
The depression continues… It’s not a funny thing when it carries on this long. Hinata hasn’t spoke to Aoi ever since they came back down out of consideration and to give her some space. During summer vacation, after Aoi receives a postcard from Hinata, she decides to take a walk and finds herself hiking Mt Tenran, the first mountain she climbed. The hike now seems so much easier than she first started. She accidentally meets Hinata there and boy, are they surprised to see each other. They walk through other parts of the mountain. Aoi then apologizes for being frustrated and unable to accept that she failed and she felt like there was a hole in her heart. She’s been thinking about it and would like to continue climbing mountains. This is great news for Hinata. With their friendship back to normal again, this means the usual teasing Aoi gets from Hinata. That’s what friends are for?

Episode 13
Since when did our mountain lolis turn into budding astronomers watching the night sky?! Anyway Kokona suggests a place that they could watch the fireflies. Hinata remembers when she was young and out with Aoi’s family to watch the fireflies, they got lost. Hinata was crying when a firefly monster led the way to bring them back. She thinks Aoi will laugh at her but there is a chance she might not remember this. Likewise, Aoi’s mother tells this exact same story. Except that Aoi told her she was led back by a firefly fairy! Aoi dreams about it that night and confirms she did meet it. She thinks Hinata might make fun of her and won’t say a thing. When the girls meet, Aoi and Hinata mention about that past but stop short of saying that monster/fairy. As they make their way to the river, Aoi and Hinata get into an argument about that monster/fairy. It suddenly gets pitch dark but they get to see the fireflies and it is like they’re standing among the stars. Kokona returns home and mother remembers and shows her a firefly suit she used to wear. This has her remember she stumbled upon a pair of lost kids and happily led them away. Because Hinata was scared, in her eyes she saw her as a monster but awed Hinata saw otherwise. Mystery solved.

Episode 14
It’s hot during the summer so Hinata suggests a small mountain they can climb to cool off. Because Aoi’s mom is also worried about her ever since she came down from Mt Fuji, Hinata suggests inviting her along. Pleasantly, she agrees. With Hinata’s dad, the quartet drive up to Mt Kirigamine. Thankfully Aoi doesn’t have to relive her fear of heights since you have to take a cable car up. They’ll take the long way around to hike up. During the trekking, a particular scenery reminds them of the mountain they first climbed when they were young. Unfortunately they can recall its name. Aoi’s mom is proud that her daughter is growing and exploring things herself. She feels happy and sad at the same time. Finally the girls ask Hinata’s about that mountain they first climbed. It was Tanigawadake and it is quite an easy and safe mountain to climb even for kids. Well, Aoi despite wanting to go there and see that scenery again, she might have to rethink about it since she heard you need to ride a cable car there. Remember, back then she didn’t have acrophobia. The view from Kirigamine is quite nice and Aoi’s mom is glad she came. Looks like fear of heights or not, the girls set Tanigawadake as their next mountain to climb.

Episode 15
Time to give Kaede some love with an episode focusing on her. While organizing her stuffs, she sees a rain jacket in her closet that brings back fond memories of her middle school friend, Yuuka. Then, Kaede used to climb mountains alone and Yuuka was always worried about the injuries she picked up. One day, Kaede’s leg sprain was ‘bad’ enough for Yuuka to tick her off. It made Kaede feel bad because she thought she would brush it off as usual. Yuuka actually cared about her. So Kaede tries to apologize and Yuuka too feel the same for being too harsh. When they go out shopping together, Kaede teaches her about the rain jacket clothing that is used to climb mountains. Yuuka understands that she wasn’t being reckless in her mountain climbing and does think about her safety. Kaede bought it shortly. The rain jacket may be too small for her to wear now but she can’t bring herself to throw it away. She wonders what Yuuka is doing now and really wants to see her. Aoi texts her about their plan to climb Tanigawadake. Kaede wonders if it is her turn to worry about them. She then calls Yuuka to meet up.

Episode 16
Guess what? Aoi is now scared to climb Tanigawadake because of the cable car and doesn’t want to go. Hinata suggests calling Kaede for some tips for her fear. So the girls meet up. Everyone is surprised to see Kaede dressed in feminine clothes (thank Yuuka for that) and Kokona start fantasizing what kind of house Kaede lives in. They all look like mountains… In her room, she shows them pictures of the mountain she wants to climb. This is when Aoi mentions her case. Kaede relates she also had such fear when she first rode the cable car. She was clinging to the pole the entire way! But after a few more rides, it wasn’t scary anymore. All you need to do is get used to it. Things are only scary in your heart. It is up to her but if she doesn’t take that step forward, she’ll never know. This gives enough motivation for Aoi to go climb Tanigawadake. Speaking of that mountain, Kaede notes that using their gear they used during Mt Fuji will be sufficient. But to prepare in the event of rain, bring a rain jacket. Unfortunately Aoi doesn’t have one. She checked around but are too expensive. Kaede lends hers. Now it can be put to good use since it fits Aoi. She also plans the itinerary but looking at pictures of cable cars freaks her out! Time to summon some courage and do this.

Episode 17
I suppose to ‘train’ Aoi for the Tanigawadake climb, the girls visit the national park. There is a section with amusing playground equipment and the girls relive their childhood years having fun sitting the swings and slides. They take a nature walk to see the various flora and fauna as well as a cool stream that runs through it. Then they stop for lunch and Hinata’s bento might be so extravagant only because her dad woke up 3am to make them! And he was fired up in doing so. There is a suspension bridge they need to cross and this awakens Aoi’s fear. But Hinata takes her hand as they slowly walk across. She realizes Hinata is trying to help her get used to heights to overcome her fear. After making it, they have fun on some small bouncy artificial hill. Again, Aoi thought that it looked a bit tall… Nevertheless she tries it out and they have so much fun till they tumble down. Aoi realizes that she wasn’t afraid was it because she was having fun or distracted. Although the phobia is still there, she is confident with her friends around, she’ll pull through the cable car ride. They end the day by taking commemorative photos.

Episode 18
Mountain climbing is such an expensive hobby because Aoi just realized she’s low on the cash. Hinata suggests taking up a part time job and her mom agrees to it. There is a friend of hers who works at the patissiere who is short on staff so she can try out and make the call. Aoi is surprised that she is invited to the interview and since she is stumped in writing her resume, she calls Hinata for help. What should she right in purpose of getting the job? Be honest. To finance your hobby. And also, don’t forget to smile. With mom reminding her about the same thing, Aoi wonders if her smile is really that bad. It must be because she’s having a hard time putting one up at the photo machine. Aoi gets the job as her senior, Hikari Onozuka teaches her the details. Aoi is a bit stiff and gloomy compared to Hikari’s sunshine personality. Hikari guides her to smile and speak clearly. I wonder if Aoi is regretting this job and should have gotten an office job instead. The first customer comes in and you can see the obvious nervousness in her voice and actions. At least it went well. Hikari teaches her the finer points of facing people and to let them experience a happy shopping. Aoi finally gets it but the next customer who comes in had to be Hinata. Now she puts on a long face… Aoi is embarrassed and wants Hinata to be done with her shopping. Surprisingly Hinata says her smile when she first entered was perfect. It made her feel a little better. Despite her first day was tiring, it helped broaden her perspective. She is still worried about tomorrow but is looking forward to what will happen.

Episode 19
Just when Aoi has gotten used to her job, suddenly mom reminds her about her homework. Haven’t touched a single one! She digs her grave by assuring she’ll get it done and it worsens when mom wants to see it after she has finished! So she burns the midnight oil to complete them but she’s drawing up blanks. That hard, huh? Heck, she even wonders if she has studied this! Oh, how unlikely to come from her mouth! After climbing the heavens, she is plunging into the depths of hell. I guess she got desperate enough to call Hinata for help but she is away in some beach paradise to celebrate her parents’ anniversary so she won’t be back so soon. Oh, her homework? She’s already done all of them. WHAT?! You traitor! As much as Aoi hates to admit it, Hinata might be an idiot but she can tutor others and does get top grades. No progress for Aoi as she dreams of climbing a mountain of homework! Time to call Kaede for help. As expected, Kaede is kind enough to let her come over. But when Aoi shows the problems, the long silence is worrying. You know what she said? Did she learn this in her syllabus last year?! She doesn’t remember and wonders if the syllabus has changed! Sure, blame the system. And her brain has a long loading time that makes your old PC seem to load faster… Oh, Kaede hasn’t even touched her homework a bit! Now they’re doomed. Kaede thinks of calling Kokona for help. But she is younger than them! Aoi cannot live with the idea of someone younger teaching them so Kaede calls Yuuka over. Aoi may be having doubts when Yuuka starts getting strict on Kaede. But thankfully she is kind towards Aoi. In the end, Aoi is safe. Mommy is happy with her work. Hinata returns to show off her tan lines and Aoi in turn shows off her finished homework. Now she can climb Tanigawadake without worries. All that’s left is to conquer the cable car. Oh no! When she had just forgotten about that…

Episode 20
Aoi gets the recipe from her master to bake pound cake for tomorrow’s climb. But this episode is predominantly on Kokona. I suppose it is time for her to get some love. As she packs for the climb, she notices her birthday present hidden in the closet. I guess mom wanted to surprise her a day earlier since she’ll be away for the climb tomorrow. It is a pair of shoes she always wanted. What better way than to try them out by strolling through town? I know it is boring seeing her ‘adventures’ but with Kokona being such a cutie, you’ll be distracted by it. But was it ‘boring’ enough that Kokona has to fantasize some sort of fairytale? Who the heck are those Muuma horses?! Kokona goes home and waits for mom to return. I guess she took too long and fell asleep. Mom is finally back and apologizes for the lateness. Although the bakery is closed and had to get a cake from the convenience store, she did prepare her a present. Kokona reveals she had already seen it. Better luck in hiding it next time. Aoi has finished her baking but a new problem plagues her: After the climb and fulfilling the promise, what is there left? Can she just stop thinking too far ahead?

Episode 21
D-Day is here to climb Tanigawadake. Aoi’s dad gives her encouragement that she has already tried Mt Fuji so this is nothing. But first, they must climb 462 flights of stairs! Tired already? Well, there are a little more flights of stairs and a distance to go before reaching the ticket station. But you can’t give up now, right? They see Kaede filling in an emergency contact form in case of emergencies. Let’s be honest. They don’t want to die up there, right? And now the moment of truth… Aoi is so scared before the cable care that she is stunned and paralyzed! However with Hinata taking her hand and the rest helping her to get on, I guess it is not that bad. Well, at least the sceneries aren’t that bad. Hooray! Aoi did it! She finally reached the top! Not quite. There is another set of ski lifts they need to take. Oh damn… This one looks more dangerous. She feels she can fall off any time! Help! Hinata believes she can get through this. After all, they’re going to their promised place.

Episode 22
Now that they’re at the start of the climb, Aoi tells us a few facts about Tanigawadake. Along the way, the keep bumping into Honoka Kurosaki. She is the girl who helped picked up Aoi’s ticket while she was scared stiff at the cable car station. She seems the gloomy and unsociable type but Aoi can’t let this go and goes talk to her. Her expressionless face and no-response sometimes make you wonder if she is upset or not. Seems she takes photos on lots of things and there is a scenery that she keeps of the place that she uses for reference because she wants to see it again. She asks Aoi why she climbs. For fun? She goes off by herself when Aoi’s friends catch up. Then it starts to rain and Aoi ‘blames’ Hinata for wishing such weather. Once they reach a hut, memories start flooding back to the duo. So nostalgic that they could even see it before their eyes. And then they had to think too much because they fear once this is accomplished, what is there left? Haven’t they gotten over this yet?

Episode 23
Honoka returns to the rest house and joins the rest. I guess she is already part of the group because Hinata is making fun of Aoi’s failed ascend on Mt Fuji. Geez, you’re embarrassing her. Then when it is time, everyone surprises Kokona by wishing her happy birthday! It’s today? Aoi baked some bread in preparation for this. When it is bedtime, Hinata talks to Kaede about what is bugging her. She wonders if Aoi enjoyed her time at Mitsutouge. Don’t worry about it. Kaede believes in them. Oh, she still has another problem. What happens after the promise is fulfilled? Oh never mind, she’ll find that out herself. At the same time, Aoi also talks to Honoka about this very same problem and is worried they won’t return to how they used to be. Honoka mentions about sceneries she will come across that she wants to take. She believes this will go on forever. Get the hint, Aoi? They exchange numbers and address. Before the break of dawn, Aoi and Hinata trek up to fulfil their promise. Then they had to ask that dreaded question. Don’t spoil the moment right now. Whatever comes, will come. Cross the bridge when you get there. This doesn’t mean the end once your promise is fulfilled. Because you can always make more. Everybody takes a group photo and Aoi vows to make more unforgettable memories with everyone.

Episode 24
Aoi and Hinata are arguing about something petty. Whatever it is, they are adamant it is the other’s fault and should apologize. Even girls have their stubborn pride and won’t budge from their stand till the other says sorry. Not happening soon… Honoka visits Aoi and is taken a tour around her town. Honoka snaps many pictures although to Aoi she is used to seeing the familiar sceneries that they feel normal. However when Honoka shows the pictures, they look refreshing from a different angle. They visit the patisserie and Hikari thought Honoka is her boyfriend! Looking tomboyish? Honoka notices Aoi has always been talking about Hinata everywhere they go (partly blaming her for it too) and thinks they are really good friends. Aoi thinks of apologizing to her later. Meanwhile Hinata tries to sneak up and see if Aoi is at her part time job (because that expected apology never came!) but since Hikari spots her, she heard a lot about Hinata from Aoi. Like her bad habits… And good ones. Thinking of apologizing to her later? But when the girls converge for the fireworks festival that evening, it’s back to square one. Sorry seems to be the hardest word. Worse, not talking to each other. There are chances for them to reconcile but they get interrupted by something. So finally during the fireworks they manage to do it. So when the rest finds out about it and wonders what they were fighting about, it was so trivial that they themselves can’t remember! And there’s a danger that the blame game might reignite again but no worries. Oh well, at least they can laugh over it now.

Episode 25 (OVA)
Something feels not right… Aoi and Hinata host a show that sums up the top 10 best scenes from the series. But with a twist! Definitely not your usual rerun/recap episode because we see extended never-seen-before scenes. Did they happen or not is up to you. For example, Kokona trying to chase down a flying squirrel ends up chasing and facing off with a tengu! Then there is the time Hinata accidentally pulled down Aoi’s skirt. While trying to get her, Hinata slipped on a banana peel and when they fell down the stairs, they switched voices! But nobody cares about it… While Hinata takes the girls to the stream to swim, they almost fell in but a bear comes rolling down the river to push them all the way to an uninhabited island where they fight over a washed up cookie. Why didn’t the bear just eat them? And what’s this? They become pro wrestlers? I want to be the world’s best! When Aoi was having that altitude sickness on Mt Fuji, she met a cartoonish guy on a cartoonish horse. He is supposed to be some historical figure but Aoi doesn’t believe this crap and brushes him off. As Aoi gives Honoka a tour around town, the train they sit in starts flying into space! They also see Kokona in a flying squirrel suit flying about. Don’t even ask… While the girls celebrate Christmas, they thought Santa was at their door but turns out to be that historical figure dude again. Go away… On Kokona’s day out, she again faces off with the tengu. Round 2. I don’t know how she used her new shoes to cut his mask into half but unknown to her, her mom is actually that tengu and notes her daughter has grown stronger. Finally the best scene goes to Aoi and Hinata reliving their promise watching the sunrise at Tanigawadake. They say goodbye to that tengu character… Everything turns out to be a film shooting and everything was just props! Our girls are congratulated for doing a job well done filming Yama No Musume (Mountain Daughter)! Especially being congratulated by that Yamada director who suspiciously looks like that Steven dude. If everything is so weird and too good to be true, it probably is because it is just Aoi’s dream. No wonder it didn’t feel right…

Episode 6.5 (OVA)
Your fanservice episode? When Yuuka asks Kaede about her penchant to always wear a sports bra, she replies this is comfortable and it would be a hassle to choose with anything else. This prompts a short lesson on how bra sizes are determined. Boobs perverts may want to take this down. Oh, for the record, Kaede is size F! Freaking F*cking Full-size! Realizing how big those tits are, Yuuka chides her of losing her woman as a pride this way. Yeah well, as of now she’s considering all those feminine stuffs like putting on makeup a bother. So Kaede talks to her mountain climbing pals about this ‘dilemma’ and instantly they agree with her friend. Yes, this is a freaking big issue that they decide to go shop a bra for Kaede. I mean, it is to help broaden her horizons. Oh yeah, that’s a big support from her friends, right? Haha! They take a detour to a sports shop as Kaede tries to ‘brainwash’ Hinata about the benefits of wearing a sports bra. She tries one and finds it comfortable to the point she makes her purchase. Kaede thought the shopping adventure is over but the girls didn’t forget their initial quest here. Back to the lingerie shop they go. Kaede is a noob trying to pick out the cutest bra and she has to be sent back to pick another one by Aoi each time she chooses a plain one. After picking a cute one, the sales assistant helps her fit in. Another amazing discovery: Kaede discovers she might have gone up a cup size! The one she picked doesn’t fit! OMG! You mean she is size G?! Goodness Gracious Gigantic! Now that she is fitted with the right size, her friends are amazed it really fits her when she wears her clothes over it. Kaede feels happy yet embarrassed in this bra purchase debut. But she has felt this feeling before. It was a time she tried to wear something stylish for mountain climbing. Despite that, it broadened her horizon. In school, Yuuka quickly notice the vast difference and the bra she is wearing underneath. Satisfied it looks good on her, Yuuka’s next mission is to get her to wear high heels! Hey, you can’t wear that climbing mountains, no? What is this Yuuka’s personal mission to turn Kaede into a feminine lady? Ah well, one step at a time…

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
Despite I am not a mountain climbing enthusiast nor did I become one after watching this series, as far as watching this anime is concerned, at least they did some justice by expanding on the little development of the characters and growing them in this season. Of course with more time and extra length to do so, this is of course possible and not wasted unlike many animes these days trying to cramp in several chapters of a series into one episode and earning the ire of the fans. While I am not singing praises and accolades for this series, this one isn’t all that bad if you love to see bonding of relationships and how characters overcome their weakness as they learn through their journey.

With a small set of characters, a reason why the development here works. While this series is predominantly focused on Aoi and Hinata, the other side characters are not forgotten too although from my perspective they make quite a limited appearance. Or more accurately as I should put it, the impact on the overall series. It was great to see Kaede and Kokona getting an episode featuring them but that is so much about it. Kaede was great in providing insights and details about the mountains or any historical stuffs relating to it in the initial episodes but somehow I felt that fizzled out after halfway. She’s a great mountain climbing expert but a total noob when it comes to everything else from romance to studies. I guess nobody is perfect. Kokona feels she is there for the cute moe factor since she is the youngest in the pack. And now with Honoka seemingly officially part of the group it does seem their mountain climbing group is expanding although it feels a little too late that Honoka appeared to make any impact. Hikari may not be part of the climbing club but at least she provides some ‘variation’ that this show isn’t all about climbing mountains because Aoi still have her normal life to live instead of just being crazy climbing mountains.

Aoi and Hinata as the main characters, we see the ups and downs in their relationship being true friends and best friends. Is there a difference? A true friend helps you up when you fall while a best friend laughs at you when you trip. Doesn’t that more or less summarize what they are? Especially with Hinata being the cheeky one of the group and I suppose she loves teasing Aoi to see her reaction or that she has the kind of face that just itches for Hinata to tease. Besides, I believe Hinata has one of the wittiest lines in the series. Aoi as we can see is not a perfect girl and given the irony that she is afraid of heights, it may look mind boggling that she has already conquered a few mountains. Although Mt Fuji was a failure, it wasn’t completely one because she managed to hike up a considerable distance. Every climb for her is a lesson that she learns from and despite the phobia she has, she never let it stopped her from achieving greater things and this is probably something subtle the series is trying to hint to us going about in their daily lives because the important thing is never to give up. Things may not work out now or it may seem tough the first few times but once you get used to it, it becomes very much a normal thing. She is still far from overcoming her phobia but like they say, practice makes perfect. So start climbing more mountains? More like start riding more cable cars!

The plot of this season may not seem like much because it is mainly seeing the girls preparing their mind and heart before they make the ascend and the journey along the way to the top. There might be a few non-climbing related episodes (like Aoi getting a part time job and that swimming desire but the weather and circumstances wreak havoc on their plans) but this gives us a little breather before their next big expedition with the light heartedness. Heck, this entire show is light hearted so to speak. There is nothing heavy or too deep even for casual people not into climbing and can enjoy this series without cracking their heads. That is why they left OVA episode to be so ‘fantasy-like’ that it is out of this world. Fun nevertheless.

I thought with Aoi failing to conquer Mt Fuji as the series reaches its halfway point, maybe she will have another go again at the end. But I suppose that would be boring because after that stint, it becomes the big preparation for them to climb the mountain of their promise. Perhaps this is to show that Mt Fuji is the king of all mountains in Japan and not everyone can easily conquer it. But for Aoi and co to even try, that is already a respectable feat. Well, as said, the mountain won’t be going anywhere so she can come back to try again next time. Maybe next season, huh? If there will be one.

I believe they did their homework and put in a lot effort in drawing the mountains and the sceneries. So it is quite a spectacle to see them here although I won’t go so far to say it is so breathtaking that I cried. Because otherwise I would have been an emotional wreck in seeing the real deal. Therefore the mountains and sceneries are an extra plus point and provide visual eye candy if you love the nature of the mountains. A plus point if you see the ending credits in the OVA fitted with real pictures of the locations and sceneries. So they really put in the effort and kudos for all that. The designs of the girls remain cute but I feel this is mainly to appeal to viewers because how can you stay pretty and clean after all that trekking up and down? More notably the pink blushes on the girls’ cheeks make the entire series looks cute although it does not cause a very great disparity (or any at all) with the backgrounds and everything else.

The opening and ending themes aren’t the strong points of this season. Perhaps it is because it is mainly sung by (or a combination of) the main mountain climbing quartet. I am not saying they sound bad (heck, some are good singers) but it could be just coincidence. For example, the first opening theme, Natsu-iro Present sounds weird enough that I don’t know how to describe it. A mix of fanfare and orchestra strings but the tune itself feels funny. The opener and chorus for the second opening theme, Mainichi Koharu Biyori never fails to remember a part from that song from Genesis, That’s All. Despite at a slower pace, it still sounds funny because I thought it is a song you hear at carnivals. At least the ending themes sound better although they aren’t that appealing to me. Tinkling Smile as the first ending theme sounds like a typical lively anime pop while Staccato Days as the second ending theme goes to a slower pace (oddly this song only lasts for 3 episodes). Strangely, the third ending theme, Cocoiro Rainbow sounds the better one from all the themes. Maybe it is because it wasn’t any of the mountain climbing girls who are singing it but Kyoko Narumi.

Not sure if they will make another season by the time the official holiday comes to be in Japan but even if this anime series isn’t mainstream and won’t likely to be remembered by the popular masses, at least the mountains in Japan (and all over the world) will be still around even when our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grand children are around and beyond. At least we know they won’t be going anywhere for the ‘foreseeable future’. As far as this anime is concerned, it is still an enjoyable watch even if you are not a mountain climbing enthusiasts. Heck, real climbers would be too busy scaling and trekking to the summit than watch this. This series thus feels more like making awareness rather than trying to glamorize mountain climbing. There shouldn’t be in the first place. Because all that hiking up just make you sweaty, tired and muscles aching all over. Heck, even climbing up the stairs to my room every night feels like a drag… At least there is my comfy bed and computer waiting…

Sora No Method

August 8, 2015

You know how UFOs literally generate lots of buzz and commotion, right? So it would be really odd if there was a UFO hovering right above a town and for nobody to even give a damn about it! Sure, it was a peculiarity at first but that sure didn’t last long. And everybody goes about in their normal lives as the UFO continues to hover above town. What is wrong with you people?! Okay, so that may be the setting of Sora No Method and despite how fascinating this is, it is more about a group of close childhood friends drifted apart when one of them moved away. And now she is back and the memories come flooding back as well as the wish they made. Oh yeah. The UFO has something to do with it all.

Episode 1
Nonoka Komiya and her father, Shuuichi return to the little town of Lake Kiriya after spending 7 years in Tokyo. So forgive her if her room feels messy with unpacked boxes and she can’t find the alarm clock that’s begging to be shut off. When she finally does, she goes down to cook for her dad not knowing that all the while there is this blue haired girl, Noel sitting and waiting in her room. Must be still sleepy, huh? Oh wait… Don’t tell me she can’t see her because she’s a ghost! Anyway, Nonoka is looking forward to clean the house with daddy today. However… That apologetic look and action… He has been called for work today. Sorry dear. She’ll have to do it herself. Dad, you traitor! As Nonoka goes to clean her room, it is probably the dirty footsteps of Noel that stunned her more than anything. Noel is happy to see her but not Nonoka. Now she needs to do double job of cleaning her up. Nonoka doesn’t remember who Noel is despite the latter wanting very much to see her. She goes out for a while and bits and pieces of her memories start returning although it is too vague to call. Something about Noel who would gladly wait for her at the observatory. Nonoka spaces out at the park when Shione Togawa speaks to her. She wonders why she has come back here after all this time. Then she walks away, leaving Nonoka puzzled if she was talking to her. More flashbacks. Nonoka and her friends were at the observatory and did some summoning ritual. Nonoka wanted to tell her friends that she would be moving away soon but she didn’t get the chance as her friends thought she could say it the next time they meet. They never.

When Nonoka gets back, she sees Noel unpacking several boxes. Even more upsetting, a picture of her late mom Kaori is cracked. Thinking it was her fault, Nonoka scolds her and doesn’t want to see her ever again. Noel obedient leaves. When Shuichi comes home, Nonoka apologizes and tries to sound that she was the one who broke it while unpacking. However father admits that he was the one who broke it while packing back at Tokyo. He thought he could change it before she noticed. Guess not. Immediately Nonoka feels guilty and goes in search of Noel. Well, how big can this town be? Still can’t find her… Then she remembers. The observatory. Another flashback of Nonoka talking to Noel as she is moving away that day. She thought of telling her mom and about this place. But father didn’t want to waste time since the ferry would be leaving soon. Besides, they can’t make things hard for Kaori. Nonoka hasn’t said goodbye to her friends yet and wonders if they’ll return. Of course they will once mommy feels better. And Nonoka left without saying anything or coming back. Until 7 years later… So true enough, Nonoka finds Noel at the abandoned observatory. Noel always knew she would come back here as Nonoka collapses in emotional fashion, apologizing for today. Noel says it is time to keep her promise since Nonoka kept hers. The promise to make her wish come true.

Episode 2
Looks like another ordinary morning for Nonoka. Till daddy reminds her today is her school’s opening ceremony. They start earlier in the outskirts. And so becomes another hectic morning for her to get ready and rush over. On the bus, she meets Koharu Shiihara and easily become friends. I suppose in this small town with not many classes, there is a high chance you’d end up in the same class with your friends. Also in this class is Shione who seems to be ignoring Nonoka’s calls. She is curious what she said the other day but Shione doesn’t give a damn and leaves. When Koharu learns that Nonoka lives by the house near the lake (actually it’s closer to the mountains than the lake), instantly Yuzuki Mizusaka starts bugging her about her feelings on that disc. Yeah. It’s a big deal to her. She explains ever since that disc hovered over their town 7 years ago, everyone was abuzz then but it died down and now nobody bothers and treats it as a normal everyday thing. She believes everyone is being fooled by it and is hiding something sinister. They need to do something before something bad happens. Before Nonoka knows it, she is being drafted to help spread the word about the dangers of the disc. Seriously, it could get embarrassing when Yuzuki starts shouting in public to protest about the disc. And since they’re doing it in front of Koharu’s family store attracting unwanted attention, they better run now or who knows what this airhead girl might do.

Trying out other methods like going to some government to make an inquiry (always the same ol’ fill in the form, eh?) that didn’t work, Yuzuki returns home to find a ‘weapon’. A water bottle rocket launcher? Her twin brother, Souta tells her to stop and make things difficult for others but Yuzuki won’t. She still thinks it is that disc and girl’s fault. I think Yuzuki is being desperate. She tries to throw her backpack at the sky and when Nonoka tries to stop her, they fall into the lake. While drying themselves, Yuzuki further explains how some things changed when the disc appeared. They used to have fireworks here and the reflection of the lights over the lake was beautiful. Now they don’t do them anymore. To cheer her up, Nonoka suggests using the rocket. Well, it hardly reached anywhere but it was fun launching it. Nonoka agrees to help Yuzuki out in doing something about that disc as long as her methods are safe. So they need to find more people to support their cause? At least that’s a start. Nonoka also remembers watching the fireworks here with her mom. Nonoka goes back as Noel greets her. Noel agrees to help out Nonoka and her cause to rid the disc. It’s not about getting rid of the disc but something Noel would like to do to help her friend. And so Nonoka easily got another member to help out.

Episode 3
There is some extra curriculum for the class going on. And you can bet Yuzuki is being damn competitive trying to beat her ‘enemy number 1’ who is no other than her twin brother. Souta’s group is just being cool while Yuzuki must have a hard time with hers. I mean, Koharu is a slow poke, Shione is interested in doing something else and Nonoka is taking it easy. How to win like that? Nonoka is also trying to be friends with Shione but that b*tch remains unfriendly. Heck, she even warns her if she calls her again like as though they’re friends, she’ll slap her! Of course Nonoka won’t let this get to her and is going to try again. Maybe it was the way she said things. About how she used to live here and not remembering much. This made Shione mad and never wanted to see her again. Oh, don’t forget the slap. I don’t know, the bruise on her cheek looked like she got punched. Koharu talks to Shione about her hostility towards Nonoka. She just doesn’t like her. That’s all. Also, no one expected her to come back now of all times. Continuing their activity, they see Noel fooling around outside Koharu’s family store. Yuzuki totally loves this loli and even asks for permission to kidnap her! She even recruits Noel as an extra member just to beat Souta. That desperate, huh? As Nonoka’s team is walking through some bridge, they realize that Shione is not with them. Nonoka decides to go back and look for her. She didn’t return after some time and the rest are surprised to see Shione ahead of them. Taken a different route? She didn’t see Nonoka either. Noel gets frantic and returns to look for her. The rest also follow and Souta too joins since his group has finished and is in charge of watching out for slackers.

Nonoka must have fell off some path and stumbled onto an abandoned building that she never knew existed (or remembered). What else to do but sit and wait? Nonoka hears a familiar hum. It is Noel and to her surprise she remembers everything now. Nonoka and her friends used to hang out at the observatory. Seems she was quite close to Shione. She hinted about trying to summon a disc with them all as she might not be around this winter. Thinking that the snow will make it hard for them to gather, Shione agreed. As the gang searches for Nonoka, Yuzuki continues to blame that girl. Had she not said that back then, the disc will not be here. She hates that girl who called forth that disc. Shione wonders why she is friends with her then. Yuzuki cannot believe Nonoka is that same girl. I mean, she’s her friend and helped her try to chase away the disc. But didn’t Nonoka also admit she used to live here, got them all to help her summon the disc and then just disappeared from this town? And now she’s back and becomes your friend? Isn’t she just mocking them? Yuzuki still believes Nonoka and that girl are not the same. They find Nonoka as Noel mentions that it was Nonoka who called for her. Because Noel is the disc.

Episode 4
Now that Nonoka remembers everything, she needs to tell her friends. However Yuzuki slaps her and runs away! Next day, Noel apologizes that she thought if everyone had gathered, her wish would come true. That’s why she should cheer up. Nonoka and Koharu try to talk to Yuzuki but she continues to be a mad girl, blaming everything for what has happened since the disc appeared. Koharu laments she can’t do anything still. Yuzuki takes drastic measures trying to hand flyers outside Koharu’s family’s shop (since it is one of the tourist spots). Everybody ignores her as usual. Seems Yuzuki has been doing this since young but the same ignored response or they just throw the poster on the ground! Haven’t they heard about recycling or at least a dustbin? Ironically, Noel agrees to help her out and it seems she attracts more attention. Who doesn’t love this cute loli? Nonoka talks to Souta and it seems he is thinking of studying abroad. He remembers Yuzuki wanted him to take her to see the fireworks as promised but because the disc appeared, it was cancelled. She hated him. It could be their relationship dwindled since then. Koharu tells Yuzuki to stop as she is bothering her customers. Yuzuki unhappily leaves while Koharu has to clean up all the mess of posters strewn over the ground. These tourists have no responsibility, do they? She remembers how all the classmates teased Yuzuki although she remained adamant to chase it away. Despite Koharu not joining her, she did not allow others to say bad about Yuzuki when they don’t know what’s going on. Even more drastic measures from Yuzuki. She is holding up the traffic with her protest! Holy cow! What the heck is this one girl blockade?! I wonder how long the jam stretches… Koharu tries to stop her again but was being told off she is more concerned about her store than her. She’s the same like everybody else. That is when Koharu got the guts to tell her what she is doing is pointless. With that, Yuzuki stops her protest and leaves. Thank heavens. Now traffic can move again. Koharu continues working at the store till closing time when she finally breaks down. I don’t think it is because she couldn’t get the poster back into the store… That is when Nonoka pops up and requests her help.

Episode 5
Nonoka talks to Yuzuki that they are going to hold fireworks at the lake in a week but she is not amused and remains mad. She enlists Koharu and Souta’s help to make it work. Now it’s Souta’s turn to talk to Yuzuki. Since she ignores him, he had to raise his voice to grab her attention. He tells her what she is doing is futile and that everyone is really working hard to make the fireworks happen. She doesn’t believe. Short flashback shows Yuzuki wanted to watch the fireworks so much on the night the disc appeared so she snuck out herself. When Souta realized that, he went to look for her but end up crashing his bicycle. It was bloody all over. Since Noel doesn’t know what fireworks are, Nonoka explains it to her and shows her photo album. There is a picture of Nonoka and her mom at the lake with fireworks in the background. Nonoka lends Noel the album. Nonoka talks to Yuzuki again and explains at first she wanted to do the fireworks for her. But now she herself wants to see it. Still not opening her heart, eh? Shione spots Noel and asks her relationship with Nonoka. Nonoka thought her some song on a snowy day. Shione thinks Nonoka is a liar because it hasn’t snowed since she came back. Later, Koharu talks to Yuzuki but the latter is still mad that Nonoka who doesn’t know anything talks like as though she knows them and wants to have fireworks. Further flashbacks revealed when Souta was hospitalized, he blamed himself and didn’t tell mommy the real reason why he got hurt. Yuzuki felt guilty. It wasn’t like that. It was her fault… No, it was the disc’s fault… And so that’s how the hate began. Am I seeing some sort of pattern here? Somebody talks to Yuzuki. She doesn’t like it, gets mad and runs away. WTF. On the evening Nonoka and co setup the fireworks, Noel pays Yuzuki a visit and shows the album. Seeing that photo, she realizes Nonoka has not forgotten. Then she makes her way to the pier where her friends are waiting. In dramatic emotional fashion, Yuzuki breaks down and begs for forgiveness. She had wanted to say sorry to all of them and that it was her fault. Not too sure if it’s a bluff because they only end up playing sparklers at first. Then Noel lights up the disc to make it sparkle like fireworks.

Episode 6
Noel and Nonoka are at the lottery. Noel really wants to win the hotspring prize although she doesn’t even know what that is. Unfortunately she got second place, which is some disc shaped cushion. WTF. Shione won it instead but it’s not like she wanted to go. Meanwhile Yuzuki receives 4 tickets to the hotspring from a nice old lady. Now, what to do with them? Well, you can count Souta out because he says he isn’t going even if she invites him (liar!). So Yuzuki uses Koharu to invite Nonoka and herself to it. Noel would have been invited too but it seems Shione invited her. So there is an extra ticket. Hmm… Who to ask? You can see Souta is just waiting for that call and when he gets it, he is glad Koharu is on the line. She has a favour of him. Guess what? Help cover her shift at her family store while she’s away. Bummer… The girls make their way to the hotspring inn. Nonoka and Noel’s group miss each other by a whisker the entire time they are there. Of course Koharu reminds Yuzuki of her true intention here to say something to Nonoka. But each time there is a chance, something gets in the way. Finally when she does, Yuzuki apologizes for all the horrible things she did to her and wants to be hit to move on. Yeah, she just remembered Nonoka’s super punch at the punching game machine, she scored maximum points! Oh sh*t. This might hurt. However Nonoka lightly touches her cheek. Let bygones be bygones. And so they make up and the usual hotspring soaking. But Yuzuki feels her friends are boring because they don’t have a clue when she hints about talking about anybody in their life they like. They genuinely didn’t have a shred of an idea… At the end of the stay, Yuzuki expresses her wish to visit Nonoka’s house someday. Noel thinks Shione likes the disc because she always observed how she is taking photos of it. She gives her cushion to her. I don’t know why she accepted it despite saying she won’t be caught dead carrying it around. Now she’s doing just that. Nonoka returns home and blows her top after learning dad tried to cook some leftovers curry soup. She notices a picture of her late mom on the dining table in which he states it looks much better here than in the room.

Episode 7
Noel must be messing around with the monster poster outside Koharu’s family store that she accidentally broke it! So much so she wants to help fix it instead of following Nonoka, Yuzuki and Koharu to go visit her mother’s grave. It doesn’t help when Souta plays a prank by giving the monster a voice over that he is in pain! I think she really believes this. Better stop. He helps her make repair the monster. Time for ‘surgery’. He wonders why she doesn’t follow Nonoka despite being invited. She can’t see the disc if she is far away. Does this mean she can’t go farther than the edge of town? Nonoka and co must be taking their time. Or they got lost. Because if missing the hourly train isn’t bad enough, they walk far enough to Easter Island! Okay, so what are those Moai statues doing here?! Eventually they reach there as Nonoka explains how she left the town so they could take better care of mom’s health. Eventually she passed on. She felt so sad and lonely that she stopped thinking just about anything on mom. The pain went away. In the process she also forgot about her friends. She believes her mom hates her for turning into such a person and maybe she didn’t love her at all. But Yuzuki says she is here visiting means she is ready to work out the problems. Koharu is glad that Nonoka became a person whom she could call a friend. Shione is also here to buy she won’t say much and doesn’t stay long. How is Shione related to Nonoka’s mom? Apparently she was the one who helped them become friends. Nonoka invites her to come to the lake tonight to watch the meteor shower but is ignored. Souta and Noel are painting the monster as Noel is glad that Koharu won’t be changing to a new monster. Souta says this one is special to her. She loves it with all her heart. When she came up with a draft, Yuzuki drew on the cardboard and he cut it out before all of them painted on it. Once the girls return, Noel is proud of her ‘surgery’ on the monster. Not the best looking patch up but at least Koharu still loves it. Nonoka is at the lake but Shione is nowhere in sight. However Shione left a message to Noel to tell them. “She wanted to watch the meteor shower with them”.

Episode 8
Nonoka realizes Shione has been waiting all this time. She wants everyone to take part in Hokubi Festival. So Yuzuki forces Shione’s name in the application form and they make preparations for the mini planetarium that they will be doing. I don’t know why but Koharu, Yuzuki and Souta are trying to outdo each other in giving their tickets to Noel to come to the festival. I guess it makes Nonoka stop short in giving hers. But Noel tells Nonoka she can’t come because if she is away, the disc will be in trouble. Next day, the gang test the planetarium but Souta put on too much power and it exploded! Koharu splashes water on everybody so they take a break while they dry their blazers. They talk about the old times and the disc but Shione is not impressed and leaves. Flashback reveals Nonoka taught Noel to hum her mom’s song. Then that event when Nonoka had to leave but couldn’t get a chance to tell her friends. Shione learnt about this from Noel but was also told she will be back. Shione waited through the seasons but she never did. Until recently. Shione goes to give Noel her ticket and Noel doesn’t understand why she doesn’t want to go watch the meteor shower with Nonoka. Isn’t that their wish? Shione calls Nonoka a liar because she believed in her for so long. But Noel has always believed in her. Shione reveals she is afraid to have her trust betrayed again and hates herself for being unable to trust her. She views herself at fault for changing but Noel sees everyone as the same as they are then. Since Nonoka kept her promise, it is Noel’s turn to grant it. When Shione returns to the room, she sees Nonoka testing the planetarium. Chance to set things straight. Nonoka admits she would have forgotten about everything if not for Noel. But she really does want to watch the meteor shower with her and that feelings have never changed. Because she is her dear friend. I guess that is the magic word that melted her heart. Instant big hug. Instant apology. Wow. Everything just reconciled back to the way they were like their friendship never went away in the first place. But for formality, they renew their friendship. However you’d be wrong if you think everything is going to be fine and normal the next day. Because Shione was thinking about Noel and the disc, it is back to that gloomy face again. Now this is what she says. Nonoka used to be the girl she knew and can’t be together anymore. WTF?!

Episode 9
So I guess Shione’s back being a cold b*tch and leaves alone. Yeah well, Nonoka continues to believe in her. Shione goes to ask Noel what will happen to the disc if Nonoka’s wish is granted. It can be called by someone else to fulfil their own. Shione doesn’t seem amused about it and leaves. Nonoka and the rest help to complete the planetarium and they’ve asked some of their classmates to help speed things up. Shione remembers she had a book about some ritual to summon a UFO. She was worried nobody would believe her but Nonoka did. So she called the rest of the friends and they thought it was cool to summon one and make a wish. Noel hints that it is everyone’s wish to be happy. The Hokubi Festival makes a great start with Nonoka guiding Noel around the school grounds. It is time for their planetarium show but Shione is not seen. In fact, she is absent from school. Nonoka decides to go look for her. Does she even know where she stays? She doesn’t have to because she saw her in the streets. She catches up to her but Shione makes it clear she doesn’t want to see her anymore. She doesn’t like her and her friends and doesn’t want to hang out with them. This includes the planetarium. She continues being a b*tch to push Nonoka away but the latter continues to make her plea she wants them all to be like it was. To laugh and play together. Shione threatens her with a slap if she casually calls her name again but with Nonoka putting up tearful puppy dog eyes, Shione also gets emotional. She says there is no way they can be together and hints something will happen to Noel. As nobody expects anything from her, it will be okay for her not to keep her promises. Since b*tch mode is too hard to switch off, she says her goodbye. The festival has ended and the friends are still waiting for the duo to show up for their own personal planetarium show. They realize Noel is missing (she was with them a second ago) and think she must have gone looking for Nonoka. More shock for Nonoka because Noel collapses before her.

Episode 10
Noel says to take her to the disc so with Nonoka’s father driving, the day is saved. Noel is still weak and put the bed in her room. The rest of the friends visit as Nonoka explains that Noel is the disc who granted their wish from then. Yuzuki couldn’t believe it because Noel helped out the most with the protest. Yeah, the irony. Once Noel is well, she hopes Nonoka can continue to be good friends with Shione. But learning that they are on bad terms, Noel starts thinking what it was that went wrong. Maybe the last reason gave us a big clue: If the wish is granted, Noel will disappear. Short flashback during their younger days shows Nonoka introducing Shione to her friends and they immediately become friends. Nonoka tries to ask the teacher about Shione but gets a surprise when she learns she is transferring away! So Nonoka goes to talk Shione. The latter claims she is not so attached to the observatory like them and doesn’t seem to have a problem to let Noel stay in exchange if she leaves. Is she okay with that? Of course not. But she had to go put up that tough girl act. Later Noel tells Nonoka that she came to this town at first because they called her. But seeing her amazing wish, everyone was happy and together, that is why Noel wants everyone smiling together again. Shione then pops up at Nonoka’s friends to tell them the truth about Noel and circumstances. Just great. Now everybody wants to be the lone wolf. Souta feels he can be the one to be isolated if it keeps Noel around but Yuzuki feels guilty over her disc protests. In the end, everyone left with that confused and sad feeling. It just got worse, no? Noel tells Nonoka how she heard their voices that day and knew right away Nonoka when they first met. They spent lots of time together and everyone was nice and friendly. Noel was really happy. Now that all of them are happy together, it is time for Noel to say goodbye. She can say that with a smile?

Episode 11
Everyone is keeping their distance. So gloomy. Nonoka tries to get everyone to come to the observatory tonight but she’s not sure if her message is getting through to their heads and hearts. Nonoka then visits Shione who still wants to be left alone. If she is her friend, then please try to understand. Nonoka starts describing her friends including the stubborn Shione who believes it is okay for everyone to be happy as long as she suffers. Nonoka’s wish is for everyone to be happy and Shione’s happiness also part of that wish. Souta barges into Yuzuki’s room to talk to her about the day they summoned the disc. Earlier on, they had a fight so he wished they would make up. Yuzuki also wished the same. And since it happened, could it mean Noel really did grant their wish? So what is Koharu’s wish? That they can stay friends forever. Shione talks to Noel and is puzzled she can still be happy despite knowing she will go away. Noel is happy seeing everyone together and that means Noel was able to grant their wishes. Therefore Shione should send her off happily with her friends. When Nonoka comes to the observatory, everyone else is already waiting. With Shione popping up, Nonoka reintroduces her to them. Starting anew again? They pass the time by taking photos but I think Yuzuki is at her limit. She can’t hold in her tears any longer. Get ready a box of tissues because it’s going to be a tearjerker right till the end. The disc starts lighting up and this is a sign Noel has to go. So she has last words for everybody. Cue for emotional time. I’ll never forget you. I’ll always remember you. Then they all watch the meteor shower and finally Noel succumbs to tears. She is so happy that she loves everyone. Before Noel and Nonoka could get a last hug, a bright light flashes and Noel disappears. The disc is no more.

Episode 12
Déjà vu scene. Nonoka and her dad are just driving into this sleepy town after leaving Tokyo. Wasn’t Nonoka back at the observatory with Noel and her friends just now? Noel who? Father doesn’t remember. And the moment they enter town, there is no disc in the sky! So Nonoka rushes off to Koharu’s family store. She doesn’t recognize her at first but eventually does. She doesn’t know who Noel is too. Nonoka spots Yuzuki and talks to her. It takes some time for Yuzuki to remember who she is. Not even Noel too. She invites Nonoka to play water bottle rockets but she wants to go find Shione. Koharu talks to Souta and he is surprised Nonoka is back after 7 years. The last thing they remember doing together was trying to summon a UFO at the observatory. However nothing happened. Koharu has always wondered what would happen if it came true. Nonoka is outside Shione’s door but a different person answers. She has never heard of a person named Shione living here before. Sorry, got the wrong person. Nonoka heads to the observatory but is only even more dilapidated. No Noel. Only a wild fox. She finds it odd that she remembers everything about Noel. Next day in school, Nonoka is not in the same class with her friends. When she meets up with them, she asks about Shione but was told she moved out of town when they were in elementary school. Then Nonoka tells them about Noel and that day at the observatory. They want to believe her but it’s hard when you don’t remember. Souta says maybe she is the only one who remembers this Noel. Maybe she is just misremembering things. Could it be just a dream? Depressed, she even starts questioning if Noel really does exist in the first place. The only way left is for Nonoka to record down everything she knows about Noel. The rest feel like they’ve forgotten about something important. Nonoka makes a plea for Noel to come back. She wants to see her. But it isn’t Noel who came back. It is Shione. Do you remember? Yes, she does. She remembers the night tears were streaming down Noel’s face when they watched the meteor shower. Finally, somebody who remembers!

Episode 13
Nonoka is sad that nobody remembers Noel so Shione gives some words of encouragement that she once knew a stubborn girl whose words moved the hearts of everyone around her. She was one of those people moved by her unwavering will. Nonoka’s wish is for everyone to meet at this observatory. So as she gathers everyone at the pier, Souta becomes the ‘antagonist’ and tells Nonoka to give up this Noel thing because they don’t know who she is. Koharu has also thought hard about Nonoka’s words but can’t seem to find anything yet. Yuzuki believes in Nonoka and Shione wants to go ascertain themselves of it before those precious memories inside them disappear. At the observatory, they gather and do the wish summoning ritual that they all want to see Noel again. Well, no disc. Only a field of sunflowers. Nonoka sits with Shione as she remembers her mom told her she will face tough times in her life. When that happens, always smile and she’ll get through anything. Next morning, Nonoka notices Shuuichi making omelette rice. Doesn’t look good but at least it was better than last night’s cooking experience when he was trying to cut the radish and he looked like a nervous doctor doing a major operation for the first time. Anyway, Nonoka wonders if Shione asked him to make this (she is living with them temporarily) because daddy said it was for her. No, it wasn’t Shione. Some girl whose name he can’t even remember! She was here a while ago… Then Nonoka got the hint. She goes out to look for her. No Noel. Only a sunflower petal. So we see the rest of our friends doing their own stuffs (Yuzuki making a signboard to welcome to disc?!) and they sense something each time they hear Noel’s voice and see a floating sunflower petal. It leads them all to the sunflower field. A straw hat floats down and before them a familiar blue haired twintail loli. Guess who is back? Welcome back, Noel!

OVA
This only lasts 11 minutes and explores the origins of that monster, Kirigon… And Shione! Oh my! That girl has got something to do with that monster?! It all began when Yuzuki wanted to borrow that monster movie and since it is the only one in town, it is always being rented out. Then she notices Shione leaving the place. Could it be? Yuzuki then tells this to the rest of the girls and believes Shione is hiding some sort of secret of Kirigon. She convinces them to go spy on Shione and observes her actions. Like how she seems to be buying lots of chocolates from the mart. Kirigon has as sweet tooth? I don’t know how the quartet can hide behind the monster board but don’t you think it is so freaking obvious that they are dragging it and using it as a cover to follow Shione? The further observe Shione heading to the lake and a place where Kirigon was summoned in the movie. So is she going to call out Kirigon with the food? Yuzuki then puts Koharu’s glasses on Noel for her debut. Because she cannot see well, she stumbles into Shione and they both fall into the lake. Shione learns about their doing and can’t believe it. Yeah, neither can we. She says the chocolates are for herself because she likes them. But why hog the video? Shione won’t say and runs away. Noel must be disappointed that no big monster appeared… Nonoka then remembers she has a copy of that movie since it was part of her father’s collection. Back home when they watch the movie, they are shocked to see this revelation… Shione has a cameo appearance acting in a small part. A cute kid who pleads to Kirigon to save her! Oh my! So that’s the embarrassing secret she wants to keep from everyone?! So cute!!!

Friendship No Method
ZZZzzzZZZZzzzzZZZZZ… Oh… Ah… Actually I didn’t fall asleep but that is enough to tell you how I felt. If you still don’t get it, let me put it in a word: Boring. Bored is the feeling I have while watching this series and I think I would be surprised if I were to see my ‘long face’ in the mirror as I sit through 24 minutes of boring-ness. There was nothing magical or even supernatural to excite a worm at all. I was hoping at least such a twist would happen in the end but it didn’t materialize, thus extinguishing my hope of even trying to help consider this series as passable. There were so many questions that left me questioning if they were aiming for a happy ending and thus the rushed feeling (despite still being a draggy drama). For instance, why the heck is Nonoka and Shione the only ones to remember Noel? Is it because they are the closest? Wouldn’t it be cruel to make everybody forget and only them to remember? Because all that final episode drama would not have happened have they too forgotten about Noel. I know it would make the ending of the series sucks but that would spare the girls the agony of going through all that trouble (which isn’t much if you closely look at it) and summoning her back.

Next, so they made a wish to see Noel again. So no disc this time? How can she be doing fine without the disc? Sure, when they first summoned her, they were summoning a UFO and what came with it was Noel. So no UFO this time? And why was she at the sunflower field? Shouldn’t she be at the observatory like the last time? Change of scenery? And if they could make such an easy wish to see Noel again, why didn’t they do the same before she disappeared and lose their memories and avoid all this last episode drama crap? Why do they always have to leave it to the last minute and then go through all that troublesome stuff? They know they want her to stay but kept thinking, oh, one of us must go. Why the hell not just make another wish to rewrite the older one for all of them to stay? I mean, it was freaking easy to summon her, right? Gather around and wish with all your heart. Heck, if this worked, this place would be swarming with people all over the world praying for their wish to come true. Oh, they’ll get it alright. And it comes with a Noel! Haha! And now that Noel is back, who is she staying with? Assuming it would be Nonoka. But how is she going to live? Will she go to school? Will she continue to bum around smiling? Because with this reset thingy (a timeline where the disc never appeared before), wouldn’t Shuuichi find it weird if Nonoka decides to adopt this alien? Oh yeah. Small little town. Everybody is welcomed as a family.

How should I put it? This entire series has been dragging out the drama of lost friendship and trying to mending it back together. In some way it was going to be predictable and you could guess how it should it turn out in the end. I mean, a girl who has been away for years comes back and it wouldn’t be sitting too well with viewers if they don’t mend back their friendship, right? And you’d guess that the disc and Noel will have something to do with it. You’d guess what their wish was but hoped that there would be something more than to just that. Nope. Disappointingly it didn’t. Just plain ol’ friendship drama.

I don’t know. I find it really odd based on reality’s context. Because for people not only of this town but for the rest of the world to actually ignore this UFO while it was floating there for the past 7 years, it just shows that we humans don’t really care about extraterrestrial lives, do we? Because certain groups of the world will always to continue to fawn and chase after UFOs for their entire lifetime. Heck, even the US government would have intervened and classified this as part of their Area 51 and conduct classified experiments and research. So that is why it is just mind boggling to see people here not giving a damn about the UFO. Ignored its presence? Accepted its presence? Oh well, as long as they’re not out to steal our women and plunder our planet, I guess it is okay to leave it alone.

The character themselves feel lacklustre. In a character driven story, characters are supposed to help play an important part in driving the plot somewhere. I am not sure which is at fault. Is it because of the story that makes the characters inspiring or is it because the lacklustre characters are the ones causing the story to be dragged out? Or it could be the case of both! Because of that, the effects of the drama have made the characters boring and they think they could save it by exaggerating the moe and cutie effects of Noel. Yeah. Either her cuteness makes you fawn all over her or just annoy the hell out of you.

Nonoka as the main character already suffers from this lacklustre-ness. We know she has some guilt of her past. She returns to town. She wants to get back with her friends. She tries hard. In a way, it makes her look like she is desperate because you know, she seemingly keeps trying to impose (lacking a better word here) on others to change or accept her views. About the disc. About Noel. About her. And does Nonoka herself change? Not really, right? So she might be a little after she remembers but that didn’t really affect anything in a big way as she tries to continue playing friendship maker. If she wasn’t cute and sincere, she’d probably be written off as annoying. Oh wait, maybe many of us already did.

Shione too also feels like her character falls flat (although ironically she is the bustiest of the lot). She acts tough. She acts cold. She acts indifferent. Trying to play the part of the villain. That little slap to make our hearts skip a bit. All just to make us guess if there is something more than meet the eyes with this b*tch attitude. Sure, there is a reason why she just doesn’t want to be friends initially. But you could hardly feel any emotion with that kind of reason. She is just like Nonoka and probably the rest too. All they want is to be friends. It is just so simple but they make it so complicated. And I thought kids are supposed to be honest with their feelings. Ah well, I guess they are at that growing up age where they are being in conflict with their emotions and everything else. And once you have passed that stage, are you considered grown up?

Noel could have been the best character because she is like in a world of her own (literally she is actually from another world so that may be technically right). She does nothing but bum around and hang around, having fun in her own ways. Her friendliness and cheery disposition would light up smiles wherever she goes. But like I said, her moe and cuteness overwhelms the overall mystery that I believed her character is supposed to be because when she admits she is the disc quite early in the series, nothing pretty much happens after that. Despite constant reminders about her turn of granting Nonoka’s wish. You’ll guess what it is but again you hope there would be something different. Something like a twist. Nope. Disappointing. Well, at least she fares better than Nonoka and Shione. But it just got me wondering what and where the heck was she doing or hanging out for the last 7 years when Nonoka was away? Maybe 7 years are nothing to an alien. If she was happily waiting at the observatory for her to come back, doesn’t that make her like the ghost of the place? No wonder nobody visits that place other than those kids. Scary. Even scarier when you see a cute friendly ‘ghost’.

The rest of the other supporting characters and friends also fall short. Yuzuki was pretty amusing at first with her angst and was totally against the UFO. She was really all out in protest against it. Better than being the b*tchy Shione. And then when she was ‘tamed’, she wasn’t so amusing anymore. Koharu is so gentle that she couldn’t even possibly scare a fly away. She has this aura that exudes that she is the slow and retard of the group but that may just be my stereotypes. Finally there is Souta to add a little masculinity to the anime in which otherwise would have totally been a girly anime with a higher chance of viewers thinking up some yuri possibilities because this show is so goddamn boring. Oops! Not that anybody would stop thinking about any yuri possibility between Nonoka and Shione anyway. Oh, and what is Souta’s role in the group? Somebody to straighten Yuzuki, bring her to her senses, somebody supportive of her? I don’t know. Take your pick. Sometimes I find that the ‘plot’ of him going away to study overseas didn’t matter. I thought it would but as the story plays out, it was as good as if it wasn’t mentioned at all.

Looking at the art and drawing, I thought it was PA Works since the art style looked similar like Nagi No Asukara. Overly cute looking girls. Yeah, that ‘trademark’. But something about it felt a little off and that it wasn’t really PA Works. Studio 3Hz is a newly formed anime company that animated this series and this is their debut anime. There isn’t anything to complain about the art quality as everything looks fine and vibrant although I won’t go so far as to say it comes close to even as a masterpiece. Character designs feel pretty okay but nothing extraordinary but with the girls looking so cute that I thought they had this baby face trademark and that the cuteness ‘never changed’ since they were kids. The scenery and background are also okay but nothing spectacular. It’s passable since you know, a sleepy town have more ‘refreshing’ greenery as opposed to your concrete jungle.

Among the cast, only Aki Toyosaki as Yuzuki was recognizable to me. Haven’t been hearing about her much in anime roles lately so it is very much welcomed to hear her again ever since I got to know her playing as Yui from K-ON! The rest of the casts are Shiina Natsukawa as Nonoka (Kanna in Witch Craft Works), Inori Minase as Noel (Chino in Gochuumon Wa Usagi Desu Ka), Mikako Komatsu as Shione (Tsugumi in Nisekoi), Haruka Yoshimura as Koharu (Kouko in Akuma No Riddle) and Kaito Ishikawa as Souta (Harutora in Tokyo Ravens). Surprisingly the opening and ending themes are quite pleasant to hear although it won’t be ending up in my all-time top 50 anime songs. Stargazer by Larval Stage Planning is a nice satisfying pop piece greeting as the opener while Hoshikuzu No Interlude by Fhana as the ending theme also gives off that exuberant feel.

Overall, this series is disappointing for a lot of reasons (although I read online there are quite a number of viewers who liked this series because it is like Da Capo – just without the romance). It is just one long drama on a group of friends getting their friendship back like old times. Sure, the alien had something to do with it but basically it is their own determination that made it happen. There was a UFO hovering over town but it didn’t start blasting its beams or take over the world so I guess that is why people lost interest in it and just let it be. Nothing sensational, magical, supernatural to move our hearts but at least they didn’t make it complicated. Because if it was this easy for a bunch of kids to make a wish to call a UFO at an abandoned observatory, God must be playing a cruel joke on UFO chasers and enthusiasts for ages. It must feel like an insult. Well, you won’t be catching me making a wish like that because I don’t want it to come with a free Noel no matter how cutie pie she is.

Glasslip

May 10, 2015

What if somebody tells you that he could tell the future? What if you yourself have strange visions of the future? What would you do? I don’t know. Personally I never had such experience and even if I did imagine it myself, I never gave it too much of a serious thought. After all, it’s never going to happen, right? Okay, let’s not stray too far. The mysteries of seeing the future isn’t the main focus of Glasslip. Despite this original anime TV series having such a theme for its setting, a boy claiming to hear voices from the future and thus led him to meet this girl of a sleepy seaside town who also have this uncanny capability of seeing visions of the future under certain circumstances. This mystery surrounding it sounds intriguing enough to watch even though I know it is going to be some romance drama and that line of ‘their final summer together filled with hope and heartache’. Oh boy. I hope I don’t need a packet of Kleenex by the time this anime ends.

Episode 1: Fireworks
A sleepy seaside town. A group of friends attending the night’s fireworks festival. A vow to stay friends forever even after they graduate. Touko Fukami is the daughter of a glass artisan and she herself has the skills to make them. One day at school as she is trying to sketch chickens in the yard (if they would only stay still – heck, she has names for them! Jonathan?!), she catches a glimpse of a new transfer student, Kakeru Okikura. His standing posture reminds her so much like that David statue and thus her penchant for calling him that name. He mentions that he saw her at the festival. She remains cautious and changes the subject to the chickens she is trying to sketch. They roam freely around so she feels bad if she puts them in a coup just to sketch them. Kakeru might sound like a jerk asking about the other things that might pose a danger to the chickens. Touko ran out of answers I guess so she chases the chickens to make the run away? Huh? She’s trying to protect the chickens from him? And so it is decided, she will not leave the chickens at school and calls her friends to come adopt them. Just great. So it is no wonder that Yanagi Takayama is not thrilled to have a bird in her room. But what can Yukinari Imi do? He is already embracing it. Literally. Yanagi thinks this is Touko’s doing and asks a direct question if Touko tells him to die, would he do it? He believes she won’t say that. Touko has a chicken in her room and this brings her parents to remember about their first date. Don’t ask. I don’t want to know either. When all the friends meet up at the Kazemichi café, they discuss to do something and can’t let the festival end just like that. A place where Sachi Nagamiya would want to go. Last year they went hiking so they might do it again. When Touko is talking about Kakeru, here comes that devil into the café. Some are surprised. Some straightaway don’t like him. He tells Touko that he saw the same thing she did that day.

Episode 2: Beach
Since it is getting a little hostile, Kakeru will meet Touko tomorrow at the observation platform. Hiro Shirosaki is wondering how girls feel when his sister Momo takes the liberty to tell him. Not that he has all that qualities anyway. Sachi accompanies Touko when she goes meet Kakeru. She is still suspicious of him. Kakeru gets straight to the point. He knows Touko can see visions of the future under certain circumstances. He can help sort this out for her. Touko wants to privately speak to him. As Sachi leaves, she mentions their group has a no-dating policy. Kakeru believes it will not last. Kakeru says he too can have future visions. However he only hears voices. He heard hers. But that day at the festival near her, for the first time he saw fragments of the future in addition to voices. Touko reveals that anything sparkles like glass triggers her visions. She has another one but this time it is very clear. So it seems when they are together, they can see and hear the future clearer. He gives her his house phone to call just in case. Hiro is trying to write a letter of confession. It must be a habit for Momo never to knock on his door and give him a surprise. Caught you there. She knows that girl she likes. The one at the hospital. When Kakeru is out for an evening jog, Yukinari is running the same path. They just introduce each other before Yukinari zooms ahead. But why does he look so worked up? Yanagi can tell. She calls Touko that night and plans to confess to Yukinari her feelings. Touko is happy and will support her but Yanagi knows he already likes someone else. Yanagi isn’t confident. If it doesn’t work out, she can’t be with them anymore. The friends minus Yanagi meet up at Kazemichi. Before the hiking agenda, Touko announces to lift the ban on relationships. Hiro is surprised there was such a rule. Later when Yanagi arrives and learns of the ban lifting from Hiro, she quickly rushes out. Hiding nearby, she sees Yukinari confessing to Touko. That surprised you? What would you do if you were in her shoes? Thank him? Ride away? At least for Touko. You feeling lousy, Yukinari? Yanagi plays it cool and picks him up to go home. Back home, Touko calls Kakeru. She really wants to see the future.

Episode 3: Plastic Container
Touko waits at the glass studio. Too many things on her mind that she can’t concentrate in her glass moulding. Talking her worries about going to make Yanagi cry, he thinks maybe this is why her triggers end up being glasses. Touka’s cheeky little sister, Hina comes to introduce herself. Touko hopes she could keep this a secret from their parents. That smirk… Touko wants to know how Yanagi and Yukinari are doing in the future. Kakeru could guess she has already been confessed to. No, he didn’t have any visions. It was so obvious. Probably only she doesn’t realize it. She invites him to go hiking tomorrow but he declines. The friends pack their belongings into Momo’s car. Sachi is given a lift while the rest begin their hike. Something tells us Momo’s driving is going to be hell… Okay, not enough to give anybody a heart attack but you can see her frequent sudden braking at every corner as a sign. Oh sh*t. At the top of the hill as they being their setup, Touko and Yanagi go to the creek to get water. Thanks to Touko’s sudden vision, she loses her balance and they get wet. So as they wait to get their clothes to dry, the inevitable question about Yukinari. Is Touko going to date him? Absolutely not. This gives some hope to Yanagi who hasn’t given up yet. Yukinari is probably wondering if the girls are lost so he makes his way to the creek only to see the girls in their undies. Get this. He is the first one to scream! Like a girl! WTF?! Hiro is trying to read some poem to Sachi but he is so nervous. Only to be interrupted when the rest returns. After when they pack up, Hiro is going to confess. He loves her… Her name. Dang. Meanwhile Touko talks to Yukinari. She tells him they can’t date because he is a good friend of hers. His reaction? “Oh…”. Then he just walks off. I guess he is trying to take in the impact the best he can. When the hike downhill begins, Touko sees a vision of Sachi in hospital and wonders if she’ll be alright. Later she SMS her and it seems she is. Touko talks to Hina about a best friend’s confession. What would she do? Does she like them or not? Because that is about all to it. She wonders if she went hiking with Kakeru and this makes her deny greatly.

Episode 4: Hill
Touko gets a call from Sachi and it’s not exactly about her hospitalization. Yanagi sprained her ankle and received outpatient treatment. Yukinari was there to pick her up but he won’t carry her as he cheekily comments she might be heavy! Meanwhile Hiro visits Sachi. And they spend their time together reading their respective books… Oh well. Better than iPhones, right? Since an opportunity came up, he asks her if she is free on the day after tomorrow as there is a new movie out. Of course. Score! Touko and Yanagi meet and they talk about Yukinari’s confession. Yanagi says she wasn’t going to confess to him but Touko thinks she was just nervous and indecisive then. When Touko is sketching the chickens, she thought Kakeru came by but it’s Yukinari. A little awkward between them. When Touko puts away her stuffs in the storeroom, Yukinari asks if she likes Kakeru. Because earlier on she mistook him for that guy. It was like she was expecting him. And just like the last time, he walks away. Kakeru finishes his personal hiking when it rains. He lends Yanagi his coat as they wait for the rain to stop. They talk about the meaning behind their names. Once the rain stops, Yanagi loses her balance and Kakeru catches her. What does this scene look like? Especially when Touko is the one who sees it? She looks really worried. Even more surprising when she heard that Hiro isn’t at Kazemichi because he is on a date. Yeah. That guy is sleeping throughout some foreign movie while Sachi’s eyes are just glued.

Episode 5: Hinode Bridge
Touko sees Kakeru smiling in one of her visions. As Touko continues to ponder with whom Hiro is on a date, she suspects Sachi and goes to visit her. Hiro sneaks out of the room in time. When Touko talks to Sachi about this, she didn’t hesitate to say that Hiro was with her although they were just reading a book. When Hiro returns home, big sister teases him about dating that girl because she knows too well her brother reading a complicated book. It surely didn’t belong to him. Yanagi finds Kakeru and talks to him. About Yukinari’s leg injury and the reason he isn’t doing well in the track and also about seeing the future. On second thought, she wouldn’t want that. Touko calls Kakeru and has been thinking what he told her the other night and wants to meet up. Then she realized the person who picked up the call is his father. Whoops. Once Kakeru returns the call, he agrees to meet and his father would like to make up to her and cook for her. After Kakeru explains that ‘hugging’ incident with Yanagi, he tells her that Yanagi is going to confess to Yukinari today. He didn’t hear any visions. She told him herself. She also wanted him to tell Touko about it. After the meal, Kakeru shows Touko a nice spot nearby he found during trekking. They lie down on the grass and Touko is just awed with the experience. She realizes she is too close to him and flusters before getting up and leave. Yanagi waits for Yukinari at the bridge and chances upon him during one of his usual jogs. She confesses she likes him and also knows he likes Touko and confessed to her. As they are like family, it will be difficult for them to live in the same house if he rejects her. She would be happy if he gives up Touko but also hate him for it (make up your mind!). She doesn’t know what the future holds but this spot is where she is going to move on.

Episode 6: Punch
Kakeru could hear voices of Touko. Touko’s mother talks to her about love since she is already that age (and she’s spacing out quite a lot too). So when she sees a vision of someone kissing (though it is unclear who), she freaks out. Her family is alerted although she brushes it off as a bug. Kakeru calls her to meet up but she hangs up on him in her panic. She thought he called again and apologizes but it is Hiro wanting to meet up. He tells her about the meeting with Sachi. Touko could guess it was it. Then Yanagi comes in and tells her about her confession to Yukinari. The friends plan to have their own fireworks for Sachi since she missed it the last time. Somehow it turned into one whereby if Kakeru should be invited and Yukinari volunteers to be the one to go ask him. When he goes do that, Kakeru can tell he is reluctant to do it but in a position where he had to. In that case, he won’t him. It descends into a talk about Touko but when Kakeru mentions about Yanagi’s confession to him, Yukinari punches him and leaves. Touko meets up with Kakeru and could see the horrible blister. They return to his mom but his pianist mom is back so he takes Touko to their secret spot. He asks about that favour she wanted so she tells about the vision of Sachi admitted to hospital. She gets a call from Yukinari wanting to meet and she knows it is about that punch. Kakeru wants to settle this and meet at the school yard. Touko calls Yanagi for help as she fears it might not go well. The guys confront each other. Kakeru suggests settling this via a race since he will take this seriously. If Yukinari wins, Kakeru will never see Touko again. Otherwise Touko is his. Since he has Yanagi, he won’t hold it against him if he loses on purposes. Yanagi doesn’t like this and slaps Kakeru’s face! Now a slap? She brings Yukinari away. Kakeru talks to Touko and thought she would stand by him. He wonders what the fragments of the future mean to her. He called them so as he believes they are pieces of oneself. Pieces he needs to make his incomplete self whole. What he wants isn’t something random but more solid and real. All he can hear now is her voice. Gee, funny because all she could see is him too. Since the fireworks are postponed, Hiro and Sachi have their own little fireworks party. This is better, right?

Episode 7: Bicycle
What’s this? Kakeru talking to his… Clones? His imaginary friends? Sachi is admitted to hospital today for her regular check-up. Surprisingly, she introduces Hiro to her mother as her boyfriend! Since when…?! When Hiro leaves, he sees Momo leaving a room in tears. As Touko meets Kakeru to talk more about them, she suddenly sees a vision of him falling. She becomes scared and doesn’t want him to go to any high places. She wants him to meet at the beach tomorrow. Hina wonders why her swimming club girls are keeping watch outside the window. Seems they expect Yukinari to run by this area at this time. He doesn’t disappoint. Oh God. See the way they squeal over him? Yeah. They totally love this ‘prince’. So the next day when he seems not to be doing well in his run, they get worried. This makes Hina to purposely go catch up to him and plead not to stop being cool! WTF?! Touko visits Sachi and updates her about that slapping incident. Later Sachi calls Hiro that she will be discharged tomorrow and that they can plan for their friends to gather and watch the fireworks. Unfortunately her check-up needs to be extended and so their plans are derailed. As Hiro is going to call the rest about the cancellation, Sachi reveals she doesn’t like Kakeru because if he is around, they fall apart. Plus, she knows Touko will be with Kakeru at the beach. Hiro realizes she tried to get them together to crash their date. Hiro also gets the hint probably why she calls him her boyfriend. He feels sad and leaves. Sad enough that he doesn’t mind having Momo drive him home! Next day, Kakeru and Touko meet at the beach. As Touko goes to buy drinks, Yanagi comes by. She blames him that Yukinari is no longer cool. WTF. Guess what? Touko heard that. And suddenly she has this horrible vision that sends her screaming and shivering in fear. This looks serious.

Episode 8: Snow
She is taken to the shade where Touko regains composure. Yanagi visits Sachi and could tell something has happened between Hiro but she won’t pry. She thought of asking her about Touko and Kakeru like there is something weird between them as they are somehow together now but Sachi doesn’t know much. Hiro is still reeling from that disappointment that he doesn’t even want to go visit Sachi. Even Momo can tell something did happen. Since Yukinari is away at his track summer training camp, those swimming girls are worried he didn’t show up. So they were staring at the window instead of swimming this whole time? And when they thought he finally passed, it turns out to be Yanagi. Who the hell is this chick? Is she trying to become him? Touko meets Kakeru again and feels they need to keep their distance as she feels afraid. Kakeru also feels hesitant to come close to her. When Touko mentions about that storeroom incident with Yukinari, Kakeru thinks they can see fragments of the future if they go there again. There, Touko suddenly sees snow falling and then Kakeru grabs her hand and kisses her! This is just a vision. She gets scared and runs away. But even more afraid when Kakeru grabs her hand to ask what is wrong. Fearing the same would happen, she runs away only to see outside covered with snow. Sachi tries to call Hiro but is out of range (he has gone solo hiking). She texts to him that she is already discharged. But that guy reads and ignores it.

Episode 9: Moon
Everybody is spacing out and doing their own thing. Sachi SMS to Hiro about a book to bring tomorrow. He doesn’t know what it is till Momo points out it is one of Souseki Natsume’s works. Kakeru tries to hear those fragments but nothing. Yanagi continues replacing Yukinari’s run so Hina goes to talk to her. Back in her room, Hina feels her sister is acting weird. Yanagi thinks she is in love. Hina hopes it is not one-sided. Yanagi lets Hina try some of her clothes and if she likes them, she can have it. The giveaway is because Yanagi plans to become a new person. That night Kakeru comes to see Touko and wants to go to the storeroom again to see a clearer picture. That hard up to know, huh? Well, Touko is scared because all she saw was snow. She doesn’t want to go. He lets her know that ever since then, he has never heard a fragment. Yanagi has been updating Yukinari about the weather and her activities. He gives a courtesy call and he feels better calling her (because it’s raining over there and his knee is giving him problems). Sachi also invites Touko to come along with Hiro. They head to the observation platform and they stick around till closing time. Seems Sachi wants to see the moon. This has Touko mention that she knows nothing. About the future, the town and her friends. Sachi mentions this is her special spot and is happy to have come here with both of them. Hiro didn’t understand what is happening and when he does (he thinks), he believes this moon thingy is some sort of confession. He did a little research on Souseki Natsume’s work and how he uses the moon in his romance. Touko notes the moon is beautiful and Sachi replies this is what she wanted to tell her. Touko looking shocked. Could it be?

Episode 10: Jonathan
What Sachi wanted to say is that she loves both of them. I wonder if it’s the romantic kind. But it makes her feel happy. Kakeru goes to see Hiro to ask for Sachi’s address. At first he won’t give it to her but sees no reason not to do so. Hiro asks Sachi about the sparkly things they were talking and if Touko wants to be looked after. But they know Kakeru isn’t giving Touko the care she deserves. Yukinari is back and spots Yanagi running along his usual route. When she returns, she is happy to see him waiting for her. Touko goes to see Kakeru but he is not home but instead invited to tea by his mom in which father shortly joined in. They mention they never stay in a place too long and Kakeru never had problems making friends when young. But during festivals, when friends became excited about it and forgot about him, Kakeru called it ‘a sudden but foreseeable loneliness’. Momo’s boyfriend will be discharged soon and she plans to bring him to Kazemichi because he misses the coffee while being hospitalized. As Touko walks along, it suddenly starts snowing. Though this is only her vision, she tries not to be scared since this is the town she loves. At school, she notices a chicken missing! Jonathan in particular. Man, she really knows her chickens. The chicken coop is open. She tries to find it and spots Jonathan heading inside the school to the storeroom. That’s where she finds Kakeru. He thought he might be able to figure why he stopped hearing the fragments by coming here. As for Touko, she wanted to know about his loneliness. Touko mentions that it has been snowing heavily outside and believes it is not a fragment she is seeing. She finally mentions about him kissing her and it is not the first time she saw that. She wonders if that is really the future she is seeing or if something is happening to her. Kakeru says that it cannot be denied that since she is seeing it snow outside, something is definitely going on. And once he does this, they can call her vision a fragment of the future for sure. Yeah. He kisses her.

Episode 11: Piano
So they’re reeling from that unexpected kiss. Touko wonders if he likes her. He thinks he is just fooling himself to ascertain himself. Kakeru suggests Touko come to listen to her mom play piano. He calls her to ask and she knows he’s been hanging out with Touko. She’s her mom. She knows even though they don’t spend much time together. She also suggests inviting her family to come. As Kakeru leaves, Touko wants to stay a bit longer. She calls Hina that she won’t be back till the wee hours of the morning so she misinterprets her sister is doing something daring. Well, fooling their parents is easy. It’s the part where she had to eat Touko’s dinner share as ‘proof’ Touko is home. That bloated feeling. Kakeru never left and is surprised to see Touko still sitting in the storeroom come night fall. Seems it has stopped snowing. They fall asleep there but manage to get back to their respective homes by morning. Kakeru’s clones seem to be telling him about the need to tell Touko something and just because he has her doesn’t mean he’ll be able to escape from his fate. Yukinari accompanies Yanagi to her dance lessons (attracting lots of other girls’ stare). Yanagi also continues her evening run with him. Hiro and Sachi hike up the hill. Seems they have reconciled. Sachi says she didn’t tell him something back at the observatory: Sorry. He nearly choked on his food. She is really sorry for using him then. Touko’s family arrives at Kakeru’s house. Touko takes Kakeru for a stroll to talk about the visions. She isn’t sure what they are anymore. Looking at their glass beads, she thinks they can test it this time. But Kakeru will be happy if nothing happens because he never imagined their families would come together. Isn’t this something to be happy about? Therefore he is a little scared of knowing. They then see and hear fireworks visions in the glass beads. On their way back, Kakeru reveals mom has asked him to accompany her on her piano world tour. He is starting to feel afraid of being with her and can’t take this sudden loneliness anymore. So is he going away soon? But they spent the entire yesterday together. Touko make it sound so ambiguous… Or is it just me? Everyone gathers to listen to Kakeru’s mom play the piano. Kakeru and Touko hold hands all the time. She thinks if that fireworks vision is real, this means he’ll be here next year with them. Touko sees it snowing again.

Episode 12: Fireworks (Again)
As Touko narrates, her dad wanted a glass studio away from the city and thus they left Tokyo and she transferred school. In this snowing seaside town (ironic, isn’t it?) as she leaves the train, she bumps into Kakeru who shows her around and points out tonight’s fireworks. He brings her to Kazemichi whereby he introduces her to the rest of his friends, Yanagi, Yukinari, Sachi and Hiro. Then he brings her to the observatory and asks about her future, if she is going to follow in her father’s footsteps. Touko and Kakeru’s family also both meet up and agree to see the fireworks together. Seriously, fireworks in the snow? That night when Touko bumps into Yanagi and Yukinari, she is surprised that they do not recognize her! Then there is Hiro and Sachi. It’s like they see past through her and never noticed her. Touko is close to tears when Kakeru finds her. She tells him about the friends not being able to see her. For that short moment, as if time stops. Touko realizes this is the world she has been seeing in her fragments. Up till now, this Kakeru is the one she imagines, sort of a projection of him in the real world. Those friends are also not real in that sense. Because they are almost transparent like a ghost, Kakeru thinks something happened because they didn’t meet up here after all (Hiro and Sachi are watching the fireworks from the latter’s home while Yukinari and Yanagi watching it from a bridge). Touko deduces her friends of this world cannot see her. It must mean she doesn’t have an unforgettable place to share with everyone. She notices Kakeru besides her gone. And all this turns out to be one big fragment or vision or illusion that Touko is seeing through the glass vase while Kakeru’s mother is playing the piano. I know I expected something of this sort but why can’t I help feel that disappointing feeling welling up within me?

Episode 13: Shooting Star
Once the song ends, Touko collapses. Once she regains conscious, Kakeru blames himself for putting her in danger for this experiment and that he brings trouble to others. But Touko wants to stay a bit longer and listen to mom’s piano once more. Play something more dramatic this time. Later Kakeru’s dad talks to him about his decision. Whatever he decides, they’ll support him to their fullest. Meanwhile Touko’s mom asks if she gets blinded by some bright light she’ll see something hazy. She too used to get such visions when she was young. At one point she thought they were glimpses of her future. However her actual future was filled with things she never dreamt of. Till today she doesn’t know what does visions are. The thing is, you have got to make the most of what you have today. Kakeru talks to Yanagi that it was his fault what happened to Touko at the beach and that fainting incident. He has hurt Touko and can’t imagine what she has seen. She mentions something about coming to realization that happened to Yukinari too. Even he doesn’t say a thing, she knows what is on his mind. Touko sees Kakeru at the special spot and tells him about the fragment of watching fireworks with winter. She watched it alone since everybody else didn’t recognize her. It was her sudden but foreseeable loneliness. Kakeru was there too enjoying himself. Those fragments of the future, what they are she doesn’t know and that isn’t important anymore. On that day of the fireworks, their meeting wasn’t a coincidence because both wanted to see each other. They think the bright lights of the fireworks at that moment made it possible. Kakeru feels he wasn’t able to do anything for her and just accomplished understanding a bit more about her. She has done more than enough. They are glad the other came to this town. As tonight’s shooting stars are supposed to be visible but blocked by the clouds, they are going to make their own version. They throw up the coloured glass beads. Next day, Yukinari talks to Touko sketching the chickens. He wonders why only one is named Jonathan but the rest named after philosophers. She doesn’t even know. But whatever the future holds for her, she hopes to handle it. Yukinari thinks she hasn’t changed. Or has she? Yukinari and Yanagi jog together and those swimming club fan girls must be disappointed seeing this scene. Sorry, he’s taken. Momo gladly waits for her boyfriend at Kazemichi. Then she teases Hiro who is in a good mood because Sachi is going back to school. She wants to celebrate this by driving him to school but he refuses because that will be the cause of his tardiness. Yanagi’s jogging has paid off as she is able to catch the train in time. Touko heads to school and she thinks she heard Kakeru’s voice.

Shattered Glass…
What the heck did I just see in those 13 episodes? What in the world is this series about? Generally I know what it is but when you get this kind of disappointing ending that didn’t go anywhere, you start thinking back what was this series really all about in the first place. Was it something about the fragments of the future Touko and Kakeru see and hear? Nope. We didn’t even know what it is even at the end and will never will be. We’ll never know what those horror visions Touko saw anyway either. Was this series about the romance? I don’t know. It felt slow and didn’t have any impact whatsoever. Because Touko and Kakeru are the main characters and we are expecting something to happen between them although we know chances are very slim to near impossible. More on this later. So in the end, I don’t really know what this anime is about or where it is going. And yeah. That kind of ending sucks. It really disappoints.

Therefore it felt like one long drama with nothing much ado. It is bad enough that I caught myself yawning or being distracted by other happenings outside my monitor and thus perhaps the reason why I do not understand and missed certain important notes but that isn’t the point. It was draggy enough not to retain my interest and there were a few trolling things in this series. Yes, there are a few things that I thought would be important or at least significantly affect something or someone in later parts of the story but sadly it didn’t. Take one example like Momo’s boyfriend. I know we don’t care about him. Heck, we don’t even see him making a facial decent appearance. There was one point Momo was crying running out from the hospital, indicating something bad must have happened. No, that wasn’t tears of joy from the way she was bawling. And then suddenly before you know it, he is okay and a good ending story for the couple we couldn’t care less. If Momo never had a boyfriend, it didn’t matter either. So don’t you think this was like a troll and a distraction? And those Kakeru clones? I supposed it is to signify his inner thoughts but the way they portray it feels like it really means something. Well it didn’t.

I must be paranoid enough to even think of this. There are certain random scenes throughout the series and in every episode whereby the edges of the screen are slightly faded. You know, the kind of effect that you see in dream sequences. As the series progresses, I started thinking that maybe those scenes are some sort of visions Touko is seeing in the future and not really happening now. Maybe they are some sort of flashes or something. Maybe they’re going to troll us who are observant enough to notice this and drop some big revelation bomb or something. I was waiting for that to happen and it never came. Imagine my disappointment. I know I was already disappointed with the overall series but this enhances the effect. Therefore those effects could just be the brightness of summer or whatever, you know, the animators wanted to save the colouring and hues due for some reason. Yeah. I think I’m getting paranoid.

Even not for the storyline or whatever the hell those fragments of the future are, then it is the romance part we place our hope on. Unfortunately this also fails. I don’t know what happened to the love triangle (if you can call that) between Touko, Kakeru and Yukinari. Because after the slapping incident and confessions from both sides, it seems it has toned down till you wonder if it’s really gone or anything of it left. Does Yukinari still have feelings for Touko or does his subtle actions towards Yanagi hint that he decided to settle for her? I wanted to say that Touko and Kakeru have feelings for each other and were just using the fragments of the future as excuses to see each other but now I am not too sure. I believe from that ending, Kakeru has decided to follow his mom and thus we won’t get Kakeru x Touko route ending. So the jealousy and face off tension between these kids were just temporary and in the end it all fizzles out. I mean it is a good thing in this context but bad for the development of the story. And therefore it is even more disappointing to think that the only kiss of the series between Kakeru and Touko wasn’t based on romantic aspects but rather an experiment to see if that vision would come true. Well it did if you do, right? Duh. Yeah. That vision itself felt like a poor excuse to just lead up to that kiss which in the end, doesn’t really matter. Normally innocent girls like Touko would be affected by the kiss. But after a while she seems rather okay and handling it well like as though it never happened.

Then there is Hiro and Sachi whose relationship seems to be blossoming despite the initial setback of her using him to break up Kakeru and Touko. When he was sulking, she realized she made a terrible mistake and could have lost something precious forever. Thank goodness Hiro is just a simple guy and they got back rather quick and easy. Can’t stay mad forever, can’t he? There are a handful of scenes showing them having a nice time being together while the rest were sorting out their feelings. Uh huh. It’s like they’re the happiest couple in the world not caring what else is going on. But that even feels mediocre and a side distraction to take our minds of the rest. I am not sure about Sachi being a bi because when she confessed at that time to Hiro and Touko, was it really that kind of love? If it was the friendship kind, shouldn’t she have done the same for Yukinari and Yanagi too? And if she was really lesbian, did she turn straight after feeling bad for deceiving Hiro? I don’t know anymore. And what the heck was that no dating policy that was said in the group earlier on? Yeah. Just like Hiro, I didn’t know it had one. Was it just a ploy to keep Kakeru at bay? And when it was lifted, it’s like they started going on a short confession spree or something. I am not sure if this is a running joke because whenever Touko’s dad starts to rant about his good ol’ romance days with mommy, it starts to sound cheesy and his daughters aren’t really interested or paying attention to his nostalgia.

The characters feel weak because like I said, you don’t really know where the show is going and you’re still lost at the end. I suppose Kakeru has his own problems and perhaps this fragment of the future mystery is just a distraction to whatever this sudden loneliness he doesn’t want to experience anymore (does this bizarre issue explain why he prefers to instead camp outside his lovely house?). In the end, he felt he hurt Touko and most probably his guilty conscious has him decided. Then there is Touko who is supposedly the ‘liveliest’ of the group because of her penchant to be in flabbergasted mode blurting out “EEEEEHHHH?????!!!!!”. Really that surprised, huh? I think she looks cute each time she makes this funny expression. No, really. Then the rest of the myriad friends like moody Yukinari, cheerful Hiro, soft spoken Sachi and sometimes tsundere Yanagi make up the rest of the ‘colourful’ group of friends. Oh yeah. I’m sure they put in stuffs like Yukinari’s jogging and track camp, Yanagi’s model classes and Sachi’s hospitalization check up for whatever non-threatening illness she has just to give them some sort of personality but when it comes down to it, you’d start thinking does it really matter? In the end, the most ironic part is that when Kakeru started entering the lives of the friends, you tend to notice that they spend less and less time together. Yeah well. So I guess it is really his fault that he brings some sort of trouble to the group.

Therefore the side characters are the more amusing ones like Momo who has this penchant of barging into Hiro’s room while he is in his own happy fantasy world and enjoys seeing his reaction whatsoever. It’s like since her own romance is on hold, might as well go bug her little brother and add some spice to it. Yeah. Amusing big sister. I’d really love to have a sister like her. Read sarcasm, please. And nobody could beat her driving skills. Really. Kind of reminds me of Tamauyra’s Sayomi. I know she just got her driving licence but as they say, practice makes perfect. Hina, what can I say about her? Tries to help her sister out, especially the part of pretending to be her to fool their parents was funny. Slightly. Other than that, it’s like her role was to give some encouragement to Yukinari and Yanagi for whatever issues they’re facing and to make them continue looking cool. Because amusingly her swimming club members are more interested in watching their prince jog around at that time and as though they joined the club just to catch a glimpse of him. You know, I just thought if they really admire him so much, why not just form a jogging club and jog with him? Can’t? Then be forever condemned to admire from afar. Considering all the characters in this anime, I have to surmise that the best character goes to… The chickens! Ah yes. How I wish I was carefree as them, clucking and eating seeds from the ground without giving a hoot about the plot and direction of this series. Oh Jonathan, don’t you know you are the best character of this boring series? Whoops…

First thing that strikes you is the art style of this series. If you have been watching animes that long, that is. You’ll notice that this art style is very much to the trademark of P.A. Works’ production with the character designs having that very similar feel to all their previous animes such as Hanasaku Iroha, Tari Tari and True Tears. Yes. Pretty looking people. Although the adults do look young, at least not young enough like in certain animes to even think that they could be brothers or sisters. Thank goodness. Also breathtaking are the sceneries and I must say they are quite beautiful whether it is the sleepy seaside town, the greeneries or the snow and sparkling effects. Everything feels bright and vivid. I guess the artwork and the pretty characters are the big saving grace and reason why I continued sticking with this show till the end. Not to say I would have dropped it even if the art style sucks but at least it was something I look forward to when I watch this anime. Although I won’t say their scenery quality is as good as Nagi No Asukara but still worthy nevertheless.

I have this suspicion that this show might be paying some sort of tribute to True Tears, which is the first anime that P.A. Works produced. One very obvious point that makes me say that is the chickens. The flightless birds may not have anything to do with the plot or whatsoever in this anime. In True Tears, there were a couple of chickens that the protagonist girl was infatuated with them because about something that has to do with flying (these chickens weren’t interested in them – aren’t all chickens like that?). Oh, didn’t one of them fly the coop as she believed? Anyway, watching the chickens here bring back instant memories of that series. Especially that part when Jonathan was thought to have went missing. The other part is the ending credits animation whereby it has that similar feel to the one in True Tears. All the characters in this anime chibified and this include the chickens too. Oh yeah. Chickens are the hidden stars of this show.

Voice acting feels rather okay since this is a drama genre so nothing really exciting that attracts even if Touko’s flustering and surprise mode are the most ‘expressive’ tones throughout the series. I only managed to recognize Saori Hayami as Yanagi (Sawa in Tari Tari) but not Nao Touyama as Hina since her little sister role wasn’t as bratty enough to have her make that bratty voice like Nisekoi’s Chitoge. The other casts are Seria Fukagawa as Touko (Manami in Locodol), Ryota Ohsaka as Kakeru (Haruto in Valvrave The Liberator), Nobunaga Shimazaki as Yukinari (Shido in Date A Live), Daiki Yamashita as Hiro (Touya in Log Horizon), Risa Taneda as Sachi (Xenovia in High School DxD New) and Ai Kayano as Momo (Inori in Guilty Crown). The opening theme is Natsu No Hi To Kimi No Koe by ChouCho. Sounds like generic anime pop but nothing special. She also sings the insert song for episode 13, Lucent Eyes which is more of a slow pop. But it is that familiar voice singing the ending theme, Toumei Na Sekai. After all these years, I never really got used to hearing Nano.Ripe’s ‘drunk’ voice but at least from the time I hear it now and before, it is more bearable. The best song is of course the classical piece, Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2. in which is frequently listened by Kakeru’s father. I think he really loves this piece.

Well, to sum it up, this series is disappointing and boring. Expectations and hopes flushed down the toilet hole faster than you can say holy guacamole. I am sure many of those who watched this would share the same sentiments and we see it because of P.A. Works’ history. Not to say that they produced lots of super good animes but at least now that I think about it, this could be one of the worst based on comparison to their other works. So if you really do want to watch it, just watch for the art and the pretty people. That’s about it. The only time that I wished I had such visions to see the future is to warn me never to judge a book by its cover and pass up disappointing animes like this one. But then again, judging from my trend of watching animes, I don’t think I will ever learn of not jumping into animes just because there are pretty people despite everything else sucks. I’m always a sucker for a pretty face. Even more so, a maid. See, I don’t even need to see visions of the future to know what is going to happen.

Isshuukan Friends

March 21, 2015

Ever had that feeling that you want to make friends but that person just cannot remember you? Feel annoyed that you have been in the same class or department for donkey years and that person cannot even remember your name or who you are? Well, that’s life. Things like that happen. Blame it on the human’s brain. Memories. Such mysterious and enigmatic subject. What are they? Aren’t they just chemicals in our brain? Anyway I am here not to get too technical on that. So the reason why a person doesn’t remember you is because basically he/she forgot about you. Duh. What a no brainer. Okay, for the case in Isshuukan Friends, our protagonist would love to make friends with this fellow girl classmate. Thing is, she can’t remember who he is. It is like somebody installed some programme in her brain that any memories of her friends are reset each time a new day of the week comes. But he doesn’t give up. He continues trying to make friends with her in hopes it would somehow cure her memory problem. Gosh. Trying to do this every week and knowing it will get reset the next? This is worse than Groundhog Day.

Episode 1
Yuuki Hase must be a depressed kid. Because yet another failed attempt to talk to fellow classmate Kaori Fujimiya. Is he that desperate to be her friend? So he’s complaining it to his best friend, Shougo Kiryuu who seems like he has no shred of interest in the first place? Yeah well, he should be talking to her and not him. Hase is not going to let this put him down and goes up to the rooftop where Fujimiya usually spends her lunch time alone. Trying to strike up a conversation didn’t go too well. She gets up and leave. Try again. Next day, she hears more comments from fellow classmates that Fujimiya is such a cold person. He goes to have lunch with her again so she tells him she can’t be friends with anyone. Did somebody tell her to? Did her parents forbid her to make friends? She couldn’t say. But after he helps her out with some school chores, she thanks him as part of her kindness. She agrees to have lunch with him but in exchange they can’t speak to each other in class. He looks forward to join her tomorrow on the rooftop. He uses playing cards to break the ice. She beats him flat in a memory game. She doesn’t consider herself a math genius because she spends her time studying (she has no friends). Unlike Hase how hangs out with his friends at the karaoke. Guess what? She has never been to a karaoke joint before. Next day Fujimiya shows him a flyer of the crepes she likes but she takes back what she says since she shouldn’t be telling him this. They’re not friends, right? Things between them seem to be going on fine till Friday comes. Suddenly she tells him they can’t be friends anymore. She wants him to act like all this never happened. Because she’ll forget everything they do. Now here is the big secret: Come Monday, all her memories shared with her friends will be gone. She forgets everything about the people she wants to be with. She’s sad. He’s sad. But what can he do about it? Talk to his pal Kiryuu… He tells him about her amnesia so all he has to say is if he is trying to be friends, just keep talking and see if they get along. Friendship isn’t something you forge overnight. Hase believes Fujimiya isn’t a cold person that everyone thinks she is. If they tried talking to her, he is sure they can be friends. Then Monday comes. Time to see if what she says is real. When Hase goes to talk to her, she gives him that annoying stare. Who the hell is he? What does he want? It is true. Those eyes do not deceive. She doesn’t remember anything they have done for the past week. Can’t give up now. Hase asks her to be his friend. He’ll do it no matter how many times it takes.

Episode 2
Of course Fujimiya would freak out so she leaves. Monday blues is already bad enough… Hase continue to have lunch with her and of course she can’t remember anything even though he repeats what they did last week. However because he knows about her memory condition, it must be true that he has spent the week with her. So the introduce themselves again. He suggests for her to keep a diary and jot down what she did for today and her feelings. It might help jog her memories. And yes, she starts writing everything down. Even his favourite egg roll bread… And how bad he does maths in class… Okay. At least that’s a start. Then she shows him the crepe poster and gets embarrassed when he points out she showed it to her last week. He suggests they can go there together since the store is having a sale but so as not to be seen together, they can go on Sunday. So both the early birds meet up on Sunday and head there only to find the store is closed on Sundays. Bummer. Now what? Remembering Fujimiya has never been to a karaoke, he takes her there. First time experience… But it was fun, wasn’t it? On their way home, they feel pretty scared because tomorrow is like D-Day. However Hase is glad she has the diary. Even if she forgets, they won’t be starting from scratch again. Back home, Fujimiya puts up a big notice on her door that Hase is her friend. Big highlighted words. And also to please read the diary. Come Monday morning, she wakes up and sees the sign. She reads the diary as instructed. When Hase meets her on the rooftop. She’s acting a bit strange. Trying to remember but she can’t. But she lies that she had a lot of fun with him. I don’t think those are Fujimiya’s tears of joy. However Hase can tell she is forcing herself and apologizes for imposing this on her. He feels bad for putting her through all this and expected something. He was only thinking about himself. Her reaction? Jot it down in the diary! If she only worded it right… The reason he told her to start a diary was to make his life easier… Oh dear… But the end note says he is a wonderful person. So it’s all not that bad.

Episode 3
Fujimiya is up early trying to make omelettes for Hase. How is the experiment going? So he tests out every one of them and the ones he likes, she makes a note so she’ll use that recipe and perfect it. Fujimiya as usual excels in maths but some girls think she is making it look easy and must be celebrating inside. Because Kiryuu comments Fujimiya is lacking a lot in smiles, Hase talks to Fujimiya and suggests meeting his friend. He thought if more people knows about her situation, the better because they may come up with a solution. And so Kiryuu is reluctantly made to go meet her. His first words? Does she have a split personality?! Kiryuu observes them taking lunch and it’s like they’re acting like a couple. He tells Kiryuu about her weekly amnesia so he gives his comment that this condition may have happened when she was small and since the memory loss only involves friends, it may be due to some friends involved. Kiryuu questions Hase if he has ever thought all this was a hoax. Because she acts like a completely different person in class and that a decent actor can pretend to have amnesia. And she says she keeps a diary. Has he ever looked inside it? What Kiryuu is trying to say is that Hase is too easy to trust people. Is he just nice or just plain dumb? And why is Hase doing all the talking for her? Hase has had enough and tells him to leave. Much obliged. Fujimiya feels bad thinking the best friends are strained. She tries to go talk to him but some other girl cuts in. Like as though she wasn’t there…

Because Hase has been called by the teacher to finish his homework, Fujimiya waits for him at the rooftop. It must be one helluva long one since it’s already evening. She returns to class as she remembers a notebook she forgot. Then she heard a couple of girls badmouthing her. They saw her reading some diary and smiling to herself. Kiryuu happen to be outside and learns she forgot something. He enters the room without a flinch and goes to take the diary she has forgotten. The girls think it is bad but he points out speaking behind a person’s back is worse. He returns the diary to her and the girls realize she was outside. She says she doesn’t want to start all over again or forget her friends. That’s why the diary is important to her. When Fujimiya is solving questions on the board, suddenly she starts crying and runs out. Hase chases her. When he catches up, it seems she remembers some things. Hase is glad this is a huge step to regaining her memories. Kiryuu goes to pick them up since the teacher is pretty mad for them to run out like that. Here’s another surprise. Fujimiya clearly remembers Kiryuu! But not a single shred about Hase! Kiryuu’s theory: Since she doesn’t consider him her friend, the reason she remembers. It’s just funny for Hase. It’s like Kiryuu is more important to her than him. But he can take heart about this twisted logic that at least Fujimiya doesn’t consider him her friend. And with Kiryuu now sharing her secret, Hase believes there is some progress made.

Episode 4
There are rumours that Fujimiya and Kiryuu are friends. You know what this means for Hase, right? Feel like un-friending him? So it’s pretty obvious Hase is jealous that the whole school considers them as friends and he is getting the attention for it when Hase was there first. He could have said he was her friend too. Waiting for the right moment? When will that be? Next day Hase joins Fujimiya and chat as usual and learns she gets the key to the rooftop from their teacher, Jun Inoue as reward for doing drafting maths quiz and a place for her to ease her mind. Then when she mentions she is able to be friends with Kiryuu, this sends alarm bells ringing. The more she talks about him, the more Hase starts feeling the envy. Hase wonders why she keeps talking about him and thinks she is in love with him. It can’t be. But why is he so bothered? Aren’t they friends? It is precisely that. This upsets Fujimiya. She gets up and leaves for today. Along the way back, she stops by the riverbed to ponder a lot of things. A guy on a bicycle accidentally bumps into her. Though nothing serious, little did she know she dropped her diary. Meanwhile Hase returns to class and feels very guilty. What more, today is already Friday. Next week, Fujimiya doesn’t turn up in class on Monday and when she does the next day, Hase immediately goes talk to her and apologize. However she does not remember him or the diary. And the statement that killed it all: She only remembers talking to Kiryuu. Ouch. So when he goes back to class, it’s that look on his face. Kiryuu knows he is going to be troublesome. Wants him to skip class just to talk to him, huh? Hase thinks Fujimiya is really mad at him and decided to call it quits being her friend and thus not reading the diary. But Kiryuu believes she will not cast away something important after a petty argument and that she might have dropped it somewhere. And so Hase skips class just to go find it. Have any ideas where she dropped it? Kiryuu goes talk to Fujimiya about Hase. Just when it seems she might remember something, she doesn’t want him to tell her otherwise there will be no meaning if she doesn’t remember it herself. He wants her to go talk to him. It’ll brighten his day. Please. She finds him searching at the riverbed and couldn’t understand why he would go this far for her. Because it’s important. He is glad to hear her say she will never intentionally throw away something important. Good. That’s all he needs to hear. He finally finds her diary. Noticing his dirtied clothes and cuts on his hands, she puts them on her cheek and thanks him from the bottom of her heart. Before they part, Hase introduces himself again and asks if she would like to be his friend again. He is glad that their fight brought them closer.

Episode 5
One day when Hase is getting his usual lecture by Inoue, Saki Yamagishi finally finds Fujimiya at the rooftop. She goes up to her and wants to be her friend! The guys come by and although they are classmates, Saki doesn’t remember their names! She is told about the rule not to talk with Fujimiya during class but it seems all that must have gone in one ear and out through the other. Saki continues to be friendly with Fujimiya without any reservation. I wonder if she understands even if reminding her again. Fujimiya then explains about her memory reset every Monday. Care to explain because Saki girl doesn’t quite get it. But she somewhat understands because she too is a forgetful person. But she considers Fujimiya lucky because at least she knows when and what she forgets. Saki can’t tell when or what she’ll forget. They soon become friends close enough to use each other’s first name. I wonder if Hase is being worried that Saki will start replacing him as Fujimiya’s friend. Oh, Saki is already eating his lunch! And then when Fujimiya and Saki go out together on the weekend, worrywart Hase can’t help tail them. And he even drags Kiryuu along. I hope this doesn’t transcend into some stalker scenario. Hase is such a worrywart about being treated like a weirdo (Kiryuu believes he is already one), he even jumps at the girls sharing crepes (that damn shop is open today) and they’re having so much fun that it’s just depressing to him. Yeah. Fujimiya seems to be having more fun with her than she has with him. At the end of the day as the girls talk, Kiryuu notes how Saki has changed a lot. Yup. They were in the same class in elementary school. Because she usually forgets, she is often bullied. The girls note things are different now since they have each other as friends and no longer alone. Things will be more fun. After Saki leaves, Fujimiya couldn’t help cry. Come Monday, Saki greets her as usual but Fujimiya doesn’t remember. Saki is super awed that her memory reset is real. But it seems Saki remembers something when she points out they ate crepe the other day. Saki’s curious friends come by and are introduced to her. They’re chatting like normal. They can’t believe Fujimiya is forgetful because Saki holds the title as the queen of forgetfulness. At that point, Fujimiya starts laughing and everyone notes how cute she is when she laughs. Because Fujimiya also notices Hase, all is not bad. He is glad that they are making progress slowly.

Episode 6
Hase is one of those who scored so low on the test that he must take the makeup test or Inoue will start reading the kind of answers he put. Embarrassing… So he pleads to Fujimiya to help him study. To avoid any distractions, she suggests coming to her house to study. I’m sure you can imagine all the things that are going through his mind now after that ‘permission’. Saki who is one of those ‘failures’, comes running to Fujimiya about studying together. There goes Hase’s private time with her. I don’t know why they need to bring Kiryuu along too. Fujimiya’s mom is so surprised that she brought friends over that I think she messed up the kitchen somehow. In her room, Saki and Kiryuu want to read manga (well, the latter doesn’t necessarily need to study). When Hase goes to the toilet, Fujimiya feels awkward with Kiryuu (Saki is sleeping). She feels he is scary compared to Hase. Saki suggests fixing it by making Kiryuu laugh. Tickling him? Well, the others are laughing. I think the emotions are dead in Kiryuu. However Fujimiya would love to be friends with him somehow and hope they can get along. As they leave, Fujimiya’s mom leaves Hase a note to meet her at the park tomorrow. Obviously he is a bundle of nerves just thinking about it. So want to bring Kiryuu along? He’s not coming. So worried that he forgot about the makeup test… As he meets her, she wants to tell him about her daughter’s memories. She isn’t sure why it only affects memories of her friends but she knows when it started. She got involved in an accident while crossing a road. The pedestrian crossing’s light was red. She was hospitalized for a while. Although she recognized her mom, she couldn’t for her friends. The doctor diagnosed her brain as okay although she only suffered minor concussion. Therefore it can’t be the reason for the memory loss. In her mind, there might be some emotional weight associated with having friends. Fujimiya easily made friends when she was young and loves talking about them. She doesn’t understand why this condition came about. Because it was a Sunday evening that she left the house to see a friend that the accident happened. She feels sad to see her daughter struggle like that and that she can’t do anything as a parent. She’s happy enough she is still here, though. She hopes Hase will continue to look out for her. That goes without saying. Hase barely passes the makeup tests. Couldn’t have done it without her. She tells him whenever she reads her diary, there is one thing she sees every week. It is about Hase asking her to be her friend again. Though it pains Hase to see Fujimiya’s condition, if it helps to bring back her smile, he doesn’t mind becoming her friend over and over again.

Episode 7
Fujimiya is better interacting with other girls and made new friends with Ai Nishimura and Maiko Serizawa. They’re friendly enough to even ask her what is going on with Hase. I’m sure they’re over the moon hearing how she sings praises of him. Just short of that ‘3 magical words’… Fujimiya also explained her memory condition to them but they concluded she is something similar to Saki. Speaking of her, she bumps into Kiryuu and doesn’t remember him. Sounds familiar but nope, can’t remember. Sure, he says his name again but will she remember? Hase continues to have a nice time chatting with Fujimiya. So much so he points out she is cute. Stay calm. Stay cool. I can see she is flustered too but not that embarrassed. It’s her first time a boy called her that. But of course. She couldn’t remember, right? With the summer holidays around the corner, Hase is worried that Fujimiya might forget him if he doesn’t see her for a week. Leave it to Kiryuu to tell him to have a bit more faith. Make that lots of faith. Hase got no guts to talk to Fujimiya since she is surrounded by her friends. He just couldn’t. So more ‘words of encouragement’ from his best buddy. Learn to push yourself. Have some balls. Eventually he manages to talk to her about it and they make arrangements to meet each other more often. On a Monday when he goes to her house, Fujimiya’s mom wonders if they missed each other. Luckily Hase finds her at the school rooftop. Although she still has her memory problems, this time she feels this meeting isn’t like the first time. There is a feel of familiarity. She remembers him. Good news, right? Later Fujimiya gives him cookies because today is his birthday. Get this. She remembers his birthday and he doesn’t? WTF… She remembered because she wrote a big note in her diary after she overheard Kiryuu. This makes him ask what she thinks of him. She likes him. Serious, she said that? Yes. You’re not dreaming. Stay calm. Stay cool. Then he asks if she also likes Saki and Kiryuu in the context as friends. Yes. Just like how she loves maths. Wait. What? Are you disappointed?

Episode 8
Fujimiya wants to go to the beach. Hase is glad to hear that till she mentions about inviting Saki and Kiryuu too. Dang. I’m sure he wanted to give excuses that they can’t make it but look at her eager beaver face… So eventually he calls his buddy to tag along. You know, in case he needs some help and in turn Kiryuu calls Saki. Blur girls hopes he calls back tomorrow to remind her. Gosh… So the friends meet up, almost missed the train and despite the ride was enjoyable, the moment they reach there, it’s raining. Bummer. So as not to waste their trip, they play in the rain which is hardly any fun. Saki made a giant frog out of the sand? Then they hang out at the arcade. Hase sucks at the crane game and is only successful after a few tough calls. But Kiryuu is good at first go and claims twin prizes! Next is the group photo on the print seal and it brings tears to Fujimiya to think how lucky she is to spend time with her friends. Once the rain stops, they head back to the bridge. Probably Hase is regretting using rock-paper-scissors to decide who goes to the store and buy some food. Because Fujimiya and Kiryuu end up together. Cheeky Saki teases Hase on what he likes about Fujimiya. Likewise, Kiryuu asks about her progress with Hase. Well, still the important friend. Fujimiya then mentions she remembers Hase talking to somebody (Saki) the other day but couldn’t remember who. Kiryuu doesn’t press further. Back with the rest, Kiryuu talks to Hase that he should try pushing their relationship further instead of just being happy to see her happy. Hase and Fujimiya walk along the beach and wet their feet. She almost got thrown off her balance and he catches her. They are embarrassed although Fujimiya hopes she won’t forget this day. By night fall, they play sparklers and Fujimiya really feels this is the most fulfilling summer vacation she has ever had despite it is only a day. Just when Hase thought she confessed she likes him. It is actually that she likes the fireworks. You’d expected something like this, right?

Episode 9
It’s the last day of summer vacation so Hase is going to rush through homework, right? Well, Kiryuu has done his and Fujimiya has only a little more. So our main offender is Saki. Nothing done. Best of all, she didn’t even know summer vacation is ending! And she didn’t bat an eyelid saying that. Oh, she wants to take a break! Nothing started yet and she wants a break? As Hase still sucks in maths, Fujimiya explains it in a fun way that solving it is like an adventure. There may be different paths to take to reach the end goal. In short: The journey is more important than the destination. Therefore the joy is in crafting the solution and not the answer. Well, that’s a good way of putting it. So later when Hase talks to Kiryuu about not getting anywhere in her memory problems, Kiryuu borrows that line from Fujimiya. He shouldn’t be worrying so much about it. As Kiryuu and Saki leave first, Kiryuu hands her a sheet of answers he wrote because he was bored. Saki remembers the same thing happened before. She found a sheet of answer in her shoe box when she was in elementary school. It was him, right? So why? Because people teased her and she didn’t make any effort to change, he thought he pushed her in the right direction. Saki is happy that someone cares for her although her dreams would be someone who would take care of her for life. He thinks he messed up the execution. Meanwhile Hase has just finished his last piece as he asks Fujimiya about remembering him more recently. She feels something inside her has changed ever since they met. At least when she reads the diary, she knows there is someone she can trust. Hase trips on a book and lands on top of her! The first ‘aggressive’ scene in this series! Surprisingly she is not panicking and touches his head. To pick up a speck of dust. Then mommy comes in. Sorry for interrupting. Hase goes into big explaining mode. Ironically, Hase is the one panicking while mommy is just being cool about it. Next day, Fujimiya is happy enough to feel that good things are coming their way. Indeed. As the class changes seats, Hase and Fujimiya are seated together right at the back. Inoue introduces a new transfer student from Hokkaido, Hajime Kujou. Seems he recognizes Fujimiya but she doesn’t. He blames her for breaking their promise and it shows he is meaningless to her. She is a traitor. In that moment, the shock has Fujimiya remember who he is and she collapses. Although she wakes up fine later in the infirmary, to Hase’s dismay, she doesn’t remember a thing about him. She gets defensive and cautious when he tries to touch her. Every single memory they spent together gone.

Episode 10
Now that her memory has resetted, it’s time to start all over again. Care to be my friend again? Probably Hase is overreacting whenever it involves Hajime because there’s this one time he forgot his textbook and the teacher asks Fujimiya to share it with her. Hase won’t have it and wants to switch places! Like the teacher cares. So Hase is telling his frustrations to Kiryuu. What now? You going to run away? Hajime is there too. He notices their relationship drifting ever since he showed up. He assures they just went to the same elementary school but he shifted away and never saw her again until now. Also assuring him that he isn’t the kind to steal other people’s girlfriend. But it’s not like that for Hase. Oh? So he can try tackling Fujimiya? Just kidding! Hase remembers all the times spent with Fujimiya. Just in a flash, everything was undone. Feel like crying? Saki could even tell they are acting awkward and talks to Kiryuu. She feels the need to do something as their friend although Kiryuu insists this is their problem and they should sort it out. It turns into a conversation whereby Saki mentions that she decided to rely on someone useful. A person who would make a good husband. Kiryuu can be her husband! He doesn’t take that joke too well. It’s not a joke. What’s even worse than an emotionless guy? An uninterested guy. The progress between Hase and Fujimiya continues gradually. There is this crepe she read in the diary and wants to try and hopes he could take her there.

While she waits for Hase, she sees Hajime meeting up with a few old friends. They talk to her but Hajime notes she isn’t the social type. He gets irritated when she says she doesn’t remember them. Oh come on. They go to the same elementary school. Sorry, she can’t. The Fujimiya he knew was always laughing with friends. So what happened? He is baffled that she can’t remember just because they are friends. Huh? The friends mention they were a couple and something about Fujimiya beating the rest of the girls to it. This causes her to remember traumatic memories of being called the worst for stealing him. She couldn’t take it and runs away. Hase gets the wrong impression seeing this and blames Hajime. Like he would believe he did nothing to make her like this. Hajime was fine if she forgot about her but couldn’t accept it when she forgot her friends. He thought it was a stupid excuse. Hase tells him all about her memory condition and the diary that helps her remember. Hard to believe, eh? Hajime throws down a lot of caution. How do you know she is telling the truth? How would you know if she considered you her friend? Meanwhile Saki bumps into Fujimiya and talks to her about Hase whom she considered as a precious friend up till recently and a diary filled with things about him. Can’t remember. Hase remains positive that if he keeps doing what he does, he feels her memories will slowly return. No matter what anyone says, they are friends. That is why he will do it over and over again, how many times it takes in hopes that the end they reach will have something good in store for them.

Episode 11
Hase talks to Kiryuu about his steady progress with Fujimiya. When Saki comes by, she panics in seeing Kiryuu and runs away to hide underneath the teacher’s desk in class! Well, at least she’s not trying to avoid him. Okay, so she is. So Ai and Maiko find out that Saki believes she has made Kiryuu mad and hasn’t apologized yet. The girls go out together so that Fujimiya could help Saki overcome her problem. But before that, Ai asks Hase if anything has happened to Fujimiya because it seems she is afraid of going to that crepe place. And so he drags this issue up with Hajime again but this time he isn’t hostile. If he knows anything, please let him know. So it’s odd to see them hanging out at the café. Hase wonders if Hajime likes Fujimiya. That’s not funny. Even odder, Hase wants to know about his childhood days! This is getting creepy. Hajime explains that he used to hate his first name because it is just a single stroke and so easy to write that everyone teased him. Only Fujimiya liked it. Making Hase guess the kind of relationship they had, it isn’t exactly dating. They’re elementary kids for God’s sake. Pointing out about Hase’s relationship with Fujimiya, are they friends or more? So it was the same case for them. Friends but more than just friends. They used to stay back after school and study maths together, a reason why she’s good at it. Hajime has also called for those old friends to come meet them to explain. They reveal on that day she had the accident, she actually went out to meet Hajime.

They bring up the name of Naomi Shigihara, Fujimiya’s friend. Naomi knew Hajime called Fujimiya to the park and hated that. Hajime couldn’t understand. Weren’t they best friends? At the same time, Fujimiya just walked in to the café and heard this. Because Naomi liked Hajime and thought Fujimiya was close to him to steal him, she told the other girls and they started hating her too. She couldn’t take it and ran away. That’s when the accident happened. Although Naomi and her friends visited her at hospital, they thought she was pretending not to know them and I guess that’s the end of it. Everyone is surprised Fujimiya is here. She is surprised this was how she lost her memories. She starts crying. Saki sees this and takes her away. The guys feel lousy. Hajime was the one who called her to the park and basically he feels it is his fault. He wanted her to remember him even after he left. He cared only for his happiness and caused Fujimiya to lose her ability to trust others. Hase and Fujimiya continue to meet at the school rooftop as usual. She still considers Hase and co her important friends and tries not to let the past hold her back and move on. Can she? Hase later talks to Kiryuu. He doesn’t see a problem in her moving on and he wanted to make friends, right? Hase begins to doubt if this is the right way. He thinks he is just like Hajime and worries that one day he might be the one who triggers her memory reset. After all, Hajime didn’t mean to hurt her too. He doesn’t want to cause her any more harm. He doesn’t want her to suffer. He doesn’t want to see her cry. But he is crying himself. So the next time when Fujimiya continues to be friendly with him, Hase tries to put some distance between them.

Episode 12
Fujimiya talks to Kiryuu about Hase. She thinks she has made him mad. Kiryuu thinks she should be talking to Hase instead. Kiryuu thinks he is a failure as his friend and never understood his feelings at all. But he hints Hase is trying to compare himself to Hajime and is worried that whatever he does might trigger her memory reset. But first, we have to deal with Saki’s strange act towards Kiryuu. She still avoids him so when he talks to her and warns he will stop talking to her if she doesn’t speak up, that’s when she let the cat out of the bag. If she hated him, she wouldn’t be this confused. She thinks he got mad when she asked him to be her husband (because she softly hit her to stop saying that). That’s why she stopped talking to him fearing it would make him hate her more. He apologizes for that and this surprises her. He gives the green light she can keep relying on him although he won’t go as far as to pamper her. Fine by her. And they’re back to being friends again. So now we have to fix Hase and Fujimiya’s relationship. Hase is fine the way things are because he has happy enough that she is not sad. So for the winter break, Hase and Fujimiya’s respective family is to go on some trip but last minute things got in the way. So they take a walk by themselves and eventually bump into each other. Coincidence or fate? They talk about the first time they meet (don’t expect her to remember it) and also this friendship thingy they’ve been going at. On the way back, they finally manage to get the crepes and eat them together. When he walks her home, her eyes brighten up. It’s like she was waiting for this moment. They pass by a shrine she used to go when she was little. As they pray, Fujimya starts explaining as she gradually breaks down. She would love to remember every second they spent together. But if they weren’t friends, no matter how many memories she has she won’t be happy. That’s why she wants to talk like the way they used to. Spend time like they did today. But now she doesn’t know what to do. Oh dear. Hase you made her cry! Your plan backfired. Probably he realized the big idiot he is so he starts screaming about what he was trying to do. He really wants to be her friend and as long as possible. She gives a lovely smile that is so assuring. When the next term starts, Hase views the chance to create new memories more important than the existing ones. That’s why he will always say those words again and again no matter how many times it takes. In perfect sync, Hase and Fujimiya ask to be each other’s friend again.

Specials

Short specials lasting a minute or so and is about what Fujimiya writes in a page of her diary.

Special 1 – Fujimiya notices Hase has a memory problem like hers too when it comes to maths because he just can’t remember the formula that was just taught to 5 minutes ago. Eventually he couldn’t solve the problem. Talking to him about it, he said he didn’t feel like solving and had issues with math for a long time. She offered to help and as he listened to why she loves maths, she notices his smiling face while attentively listening.

Special 2 – This time it is about Kiryuu and although he might seem cold, he is actually a kind person. She doesn’t understand why Hase is friends with him but after talking to Hase, she started to understand. His words are blunt but rational and keep you on the ground. She also observes he speaks to nobody else in class except Hase although he is quite perceptive about the class and may be the lone wolf type. Ultimately he is a caring guy. She is happy to become his friend. Also a note of Fujimiya’s omelette experiment recipe for Hase to taste and he likes it sweeter.

Special 3 – Fujimiya just lost her precious diary and thanks to Hase she got it back. She reread the things written in it and it lit a fire in her heart. She finds him a very nice person to help her get it back but she wonders how did he know she lost it or it was important to her. Like as though he knows everything about her. However it is okay as long as it is him. She wants to know more about him too.

Special 4 – This one is about Saki and the fun time spent with her. Heck, there is even this joke that Saki wants to become her little sister, in which Fujimiya herself could have mistaken her to be part of the family. Sisters of forgetfulness? I can see lots of irony in here. She also writes about the time she and Saki ate at the crepe stall and feels the need to apologize to Hase because they were supposed to go there together but she went with Saki first. In short, Saki is her cute new little friend.

Special 5 – This is when Fujimiya invited her friends back to her home for a group study. She is happy that she got to know Saki and Kiryuu’s likings. Of course all thanks to Hase and now she has 2 more friends and had lots of fun. She is also concerned that Hase has forgotten a maths formula learnt last year and wonders if he will do well in the make-up tests.

Don’t Forget To Remember
Okay. Personally I have to admit upfront first that with the drama and seemingly slow pace of the series, there are many times I have caught myself yawning and being distracted by other things going on in my house instead of paying attention to this series. Unfortunately for me, this series feels a bit of a drag and a little boring. I mean, worst part is that I don’t even think Fujimiya’s memory condition is cured although she seems to be making a great headway. I expected something like this since it would be unrealistic if a guy who perseveres is the one who cured her memory problem instead of doctors and scientists. Ouch. That will be a big insult. And so we have this kind of feel good ending that despite she still has her unfortunate condition, it improves a lot to a point that seems that she never has such condition in the first place. Because the way she is acting so emotionally and friendly like as though she knows him for a very long time. Something I find it hard for a person with no memories, although gets convinced by reading her diary and then proceeds to treat this ‘stranger’ like a close friend. Wow. I think Fujimiya must be the very trusting type. And it is a good thing she met Hase, no?

The relationship between Hase and Fujimiya isn’t anything impressive. It feels normal. Just that you add an amnesiac and reset button to it. Because on the surface and in the eyes of others, they look pretty normal. Therefore to ‘spice’ things up, we have this ‘roller coaster’ ride of memories forgetting incidents. Just when things are going smoothly and nicely, all on the right track, then something happens that threatens to destroy all the hard work again. From the time she dropped her diary to Hajime’s appearance. Well, I don’t know what is next but I am sure they can pull it through. Hopefully. I don’t know. Watching them doing this repeated friendship thingy reminds me of that Hollywood movie, 50 First Dates that starred Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. Similar concept but totally different in overall terms. I was hoping that even if Fumiya’s memories are causing her the problem to remember, maybe her body would remember and thus help her mind recall some of the things they do together. Doesn’t seem like the case here. If her mind is reset, so will all the experience she had over her body. And I do not intend to sound ambiguous with that, mind you. Heck, this anime doesn’t have a shred of fanservice or at least anything that I would deem it as one.

Among the quartet, Hase feels like the one with the most emotions and the one who gets dramatic each time. Whether it is about Fujimiya (mostly it is about this) or talking his troubles to his emotionless friend. You could say Hase goes the extra mile for her. I am very sure he likes her a lot, otherwise why do all this stuff when many would have just given up and leave her alone. Because if let’s say there is another case exactly like hers (not Saki’s), would he do the same? But leaving this aside, thanks to his stubbornness (or perseverance if you prefer to call it), it does pay off eventually. Fujimiya is lucky to have such a guy like him around.

Fujimiya on the other hand learns to open up more and she isn’t as scornful or having feelings of distrusts like in the beginning. You’ll notice that she becomes livelier and more cheerful to the point that as though she never had this problem in the first place. But it is definitely great to see her smiling and laughing again because this face is much better than the gloomy and unfriendly one everybody else used to know. Although I find it silly that her selective memory reset only applies to friends, maybe I thought if she could find a loophole somewhere and stem this problem off? Like consider them as, say, step siblings! I know it is crazy but she remembers her family members, right? Only friends she forgets. So theoretically if she classifies her friends as a different family, does it mean she will remember them? Another point to ponder: If Fujimiya reads her diary every day and she adds to them each time, don’t you think she is going to have a few books by the time she graduates? How will she have the time to read all of them? Will her brain have the capacity to absorb all of them? I mean, surely if your memories reset, you’ll find it suspicious about this friend you have just made even though the diary was written by you. Oh heck, if you don’t trust in yourself, who else could you trust? But the thought that the more she writes and reads, the heavier toll it will be on her mind and body. How long will she spend reading her entire volumes of diary? It will be tomorrow when that happens! Kinda reminds me of Chihiro’s case from ef ~A Tale Of Memories~.

Kiryuu is like the guy who doesn’t cares but cares. Get it? No emotions and always have this tired tone in his voice that makes you think that it is a pain for him to go through this and that. So is having no emotions worse than having no memories? But as you can see he obviously cares about his friend. He gives timely and good advice although the tone of his voice doesn’t sound like it. He may have the unfriendly look too and I think nobody would want to make friends with him either. Thus maybe that is why he hangs out only with Hase. But like he cares if he has friends or not. Once you get to know him, you’ll learn he is a good guy even though I am sure he won’t admit it or brushes it off. Just like the other characters of this series. Don’t judge them by their looks and still waters run deep.

Personally I think the ‘coolest’ person in the series goes to Saki because she is like in a world of her own. She has this dreamy look and feel which makes her both cute and cool. She takes and does things at her own pace. There is no need to conform to others because if you have a hard time yourself, imagine how much tougher it is to conform to others. So just take it slow and easy. That is Saki for you. Some may call her a retard by the way she acts and sometimes I feel she is a bit like that too. But do you call a handicap person a retard? So is Saki a handicap? Not of the physical type anyway. So I suppose it is much harder to see therefore easier to judge her. Overall I think she is quite cute the way she is and thus in a dilemma if she is ever cured of this memory problem of hers.

Romance wise, I don’t think it is going anywhere at the moment. Nearly-nearly there but not quite. I didn’t put my hopes up on this department seeing that if Fujimiya already had memory problems, how could she even remember her boyfriend? Oh wait. Remember the loophole I just said? Perhaps if Hase elevates his status into lover, maybe she’ll remember him. Only one way to find out. And it is not in this season! But we all know that the 2 of them are growing to like each other as they spend more time together. We hope this is the case. Then they can change their status to one week friends to eternal lovers. Haha! Nice one. I think. But it is safe to say that instead of being one week friends, they are actually friends for life, don’t you think? Likewise, there seems to be some seemingly romance in the most unlikely pair of Kiryuu and Saki. You know Kiryuu’s character, right? Is this the kind of guy that is even capable of falling in love? And with Saki’s dreamy disposition, it is a surprise that she is bold enough to ask him to be her husband! I wonder if she really knows what that means and implies. Two characters with totally opposite and stark contrasting personalities become an item? And even before Hase and Fujimiya as we are hoping? Yeah. Weird indeed. Even though this is somewhat ‘resolved’ for now and their friendship back to normal, it remains to see if this would be reignited later. Because it is not like Kiryuu is against the idea. Maybe it just came to a shock to him too fast at first.

Drawing and art feels very simple and plain. Something like Kimi To Boku but even simpler. To a point that sometimes I couldn’t distinguish between certain characters. In other words, a bit misleading. Because take for example the case of Inoue. I didn’t actually think he is a teacher but some high school student! Unless he is a very young teacher and just starting out with his teaching job, he certainly looks like the same age as the students. Same case with Fujimiya’s mom. At first I thought she was her sister!!! The colouring and the shades feel very light too. The backgrounds sometimes look like they were being painted with water colour. I guess such light art is suitable for what I consider overall a light series that isn’t anything too complicated once you think about it.

Voice acting feels pretty normal since this is just a big romance drama. Yoshitaka Yamaya does Hase (Hikaru in Re: Hamatora) while Sora Amamiya is the voice of Fujimiya (Hazuki in Blade & Soul). The rest of the casts include Yoshimasa Hosoya as Kiryuu (Shichika in Katanagatari), Rumi Ookubo as Saki (Hibachi in Mushibugyou), Shintarou Asanuma as Hajime (Tsuda in Seitokai Yakuindomo), Juni Majima as Inoue (Tooru in Hitsugi No Chaika), Asuka Kakumoto as Maiko (Niko in Mikakunin De Shinkoukei), Rui Tanabe as Ai (Nanana in Ryuugajou Nanana No Maizoukin) and Mai Nakahara as Fujimiya’s mom (Gonou in Rail Wars). The heavily guitar strumming pop-like opening theme is Niji No Kakera by Natsumi Kon while the ending theme is Kanade by Sora Amamiya, a lovely slow ballad.

For those who like slow paced romance genres and lots of tender and heart warming moments, this one may suit you very much. Because memories play an important factor in everything especially in relationships, it makes you at least appreciate that you have memories lasting beyond a week. It can be a double edge sword too. Everything breaks down just because you can’t remember. Have you ever faced the fury and wrath of your wife or girlfriend for not remembering her birthday or anniversary? Yup. That. So it is important to remember even the trivial of things because your beloved’s birthday and anniversary date is anything but trivial. Haha! Whoops! Though, I myself can sometimes understand Fujimiya and Saki’s case as I am in some ways an absent-minded person. Now, what did I eat for lunch yesterday… But thank goodness at least I can still remember watching this anime because it would be a big pain just having to rewatch this again and again. And again… Same time next week? Please, no…

Nagi No Asukara

December 7, 2014

Kana Hanazawa as a cry-baby?! Oh Wow! I want to hear! And thus with this paltry and pathetic reason I decided to try Nagi No Asukara (A Lull In The Sea). Scorn me if you will. Despite my initial stereotype of her best voicing retarded characters (she still does from time to time), but I think after coming from such a long way, she has one of the best and versatile voices in the anime industry after voicing a myriad of roles especially recently it’s like almost every anime that I have seen, there is her. It’s like she is almost everywhere and I can’t escape from her grasp so to speak. So Kana Hanazawa will be my next favourite seiyuu? Not really. Despite not hearing much of Mamiko Noto these days, my love for her (voice) hasn’t waned a bit.

Anyway before I get distracted about comparing voice actresses and anything else, let us get back to this original anime. I don’t know where I heard it before but there is a theory that all life forms and everything else comes from the sea. Well, the Earth is about 70% covered in water, right? In this tale, we have normal people who live on the land as well as those who live in the sea. No, the sea people won’t be something like Aquaman or Atlantis thingy. They look, sound and behave like your typical land dwellers except that they can breathe underwater. That is just the setting. The story? Four kids from the ocean transfer to a school on land since theirs closed. They have to adjust to their new surroundings while dealing with not only the awkward relationship with the land people but also their own feelings for each other. Yeah. Sounds like another friendship, drama, love romance genre. Let’s see whether this one will sink or swim.

Episode 1
The fish people kids of Shioshishio are going to a school on land for the first time since theirs closed. Not enough students? Well, there are only 4 of them. The very angst Hikari Sakishima, the cry-baby Manaka Mukaido and their friends Chisaki Hiradaira and Kaname Isaki. Manaka already makes a blunder by being caught in a trawler’s fishing net. That’s the first time her eyes meet with Tsumugu Kihara. The quartet are introduced to their class but many of them tease them about their fishy smell. To add to Hikari’s angst, Tsumugu is in the same class. Later he visits his sister, Akari who works in a sundry shop on land, Saya Mart. A couple of lolis, Miuna Shidome and Sayu Hisanuma are seen trying to make a chewing gum graffiti on the wall. Hikari is dragged into a meeting with the other fish men as they are abuzz about humans not wanting to do the Boatdrift Ceremony this year. That’s where we learn that humans once came from the sea but there are those who were awed by the land and left. But the land dwellers experienced many hardships and were convinced the Sea God was angry at their ingratitude so they sent a young girl out on a boat as sacrifice. That’s how the tradition came to be. Manaka visits Lord Uroko to give her offerings. Because he starts sniffing her skin, she throws the food at him. He curses her. Because of that, the next day she is reluctant to leave her room. Hikari finds out that there is a fish on her knee! It’s farting?! No wonder she is so embarrassed and can’t let anyone see. Maybe except Hikari. He ties a handkerchief around it so no one can see it. In class, the girls are touching all over Manaka over her beautiful Ena (the fish people’s skin). She tries to get away but accidentally bangs her knee on the table. The fish farts. Uh huh. WTF. So embarrassed that she runs away and who knows where she fell. Her friends look for her. Hikari never gives up looking for her so Chisaki has this worried look that hints to us she likes Hikari. And with Kaname calming her down, it is also a hint that tells us he likes her. Even fish people have their love woes. Manaka is picked up by Tsumugu and placed in his bathtub since her Ena is cracking. She is disheartened and expects the worst when he sees the fish. However he exclaims it is beautiful. He is not lying. He also comments the fish’s scales are unique. So is her. Can she get any more embarrassed than this? Night fall, Manaka reunites with Hikari who isn’t so happy to see Tsumugu and accuses him of doing something to her and wants to beat him up. He felt the shock when he was told he rescued her. Worse, he notices her handkerchief off and realizes Tsumugu have seen the fish. What’s the problem?

Episode 2
The fish suddenly says goodbye and swims away! But guess what? Manaka goes to Uroko and tries to throw food at him! Uh huh. Trying to get cursed? Not a chance. Now Hikari is acting like Manaka’s bodyguard, telling her to stay away from Tsumugu and that the way she calls him sounds perverted. Hikari is confronted by Sayu and Miuna who start insulting him. They couldn’t believe Akari is his sister. Sayu even tries to get violent! But those short limbs won’t reach him… In the end, Miuna kicks his heel and they escape. The teacher seeks volunteers for the Boatdrift Ceremony and to make the Wooden Maiden (the school is doing it voluntary). Because Tsumugu volunteers, so does Manaka. Eventually the rest of the fish kids too. While gathering wood, they find Tsumugu quite knowledgeable about Shioshishio. When he is out on the boat and on very clear days, he could sometimes see the reflection and the ocean city below. He loves it. On their way back, the kids are shocked to see Akari being dropped off by a guy, Itaru near the pier. To their shock, they exchange kisses before she dives down! Hikari is positive that their relationship will not work out but as Kaname puts it if they do get married, sea dwellers will be banished from Shioshishio forever. Then Hikari gets so angry and starts scolding everybody that it made the girls cry. Kaname can only advise him to control his anger. Back with his family, he observes Akari acting like normal. He has a lot to think. He wants to protect her and Manaka like Ena but couldn’t understand why she wants to discard away all that and go to the surface. Manaka sees Uroko again and wants him to put the curse back. He tells her she has always been protected by somebody but now she is about to go where they can’t protect her. They hear a commotion outside. Several guys have Akari in custody because they heard she has been seeing some guy on land. Akari and Hikari’s father, Tomoru who is the head priest will talk to her himself. They know if a family member of theirs leaves for the surface, it’s going to look bad.

Episode 3
The friends discuss about this and Hikari is going to find this guy and punch him! Since this is a guy’s business, he shoos away the girls. They talk among themselves about some sea slug with a red belly. If you tell it your most private feelings, it will tell you what will come of them. Manaka is not sure if she likes Tsumugu because so also likes her friends. When Hikari sleeps, he could hear Akari’s weep. The only time he heard this was when their mom passed away. Hikari was inconsolable but Akari never cried. He couldn’t understand why she was acting like an adult when she is just a kid. She even took over mom’s place to take care of her family and didn’t want to become a manga artist which was her dream. Hikari argued she should just do it since he doesn’t want to go to college but she hugs him and cries she loves him. Although Hikari still blames her boyfriend, in a way he is relieved because she started thinking about herself. The friends tail Itaru to Tsumugu’s house. Hikari let his anger get the better of him and charges in to punch. Tsumugu’s grandpa easily subdues him. Grandpa asks Itaru if he is trying to have babies. As explained, Ena is a special skin that sea dwellers have that allows them to breath underwater. When a child is born from a union between a sea and land dweller, the child loses the Ena and cannot survive underwater. This is the reason why sea dwellers are banished. Itaru assures he is not fooling around with her but since he is not sure about marrying her, Hikari blows his top. He starts punching him and couldn’t remember what happened after that because grandpa took him out. He goes to thank grandpa for that and he is surprised he might have seen this old dude having Ena. Now he goes back and he tells sister to give up on that guy. She agrees. Wait, now he doesn’t agree to her giving up so easily? The friends are surprised that Tsumugu has dug a pond for them since it would be inconvenient for them to go back down the sea when their Ena dries up. Manaka comes clean about the fish curse and even tries to impersonate it! This makes Tsumugu laugh! That night Hikari sees Itaru going somewhere so he tails him to where Akari works. He didn’t expect to see Miuna and Sayu but Miuna wants him to do a favour. Help break up her dad and that woman. WHAT?!

Episode 4
Despite Hikari not liking all this, he will not play dirty like them and won’t do it. During cooking class, nobody wants to try the fish kids’ dish. Manaka tries to persuade a couple of boys to do so but they find her annoying and push her away, spilling her dish. Hikari wants to give them a piece of his mind but it is Tsumugu who steps in first and tells them to apologize. More woes for them because somebody has destroyed their Wooden Maiden! Hikari believes it’s those jerks and with lots of raging fury, goes to tackle them! Wow. The tackle must have been so hard that the locker became crooked! While Chisaki and Kaname are cleaning up, they see a doodle on the Wooden Maiden that says “Sayu was here!”. That is sure a dead giveaway. Chisaki doesn’t want anybody to know this because if they do, Hikari will become the bad guy. But Tsumugu says it is not the case of who is the villain, it is the truth that was misunderstood. Chisaki feels disappointed in him and thought he was different. Tsumugu doesn’t want everyone to misunderstand Hikari just because he misunderstands everyone. When Miuna finds Sayu has trashed the Wooden Maiden, she scolds her best friend for playing dirty. Manaka and Hikari see Itaru drowning and save him. Back in his home, he explains Akari won’t see him so he borrowed some diving gear from his friend and thought of going to see her. Before Hikari can get mad, he sees the altar of Itaru’s dead wife, Miori. Flashback reveals they were a perfect family when Akari got to know them and Miuna was a happy child. But Miori’s sudden death shook the little girl and it reminded her how similar she was to Hikari. She wanted to stay by their side and thought she could fill the gap Miori left behind and take her place. Uroko offers to put a curse for her to forget this man but she will handle this herself. Next day, Hikari gets down on his knees to apologize to those guys. Manaka joins in. The guy tackles him to make it even and they become friends. Sort of. Kaname confronts Sayu and tells her it is her fault that made Hikari do that and as his best friend, he can’t forgive her. So the loli starts crying and explains Miuna is her best friend too. She was always picked on except her. So when people started picking on Miuna, they ignored Sayu. But Miuna also ignored them. How can she be fine with this? Why should she care about those she doesn’t care? They are people whom she doesn’t care and have nothing to do with her. Sayu goes to apologize to Hikari. Everything seems to end well except that Chisaki feels sad that she wanted to defend him.

Episode 5
Uroko reads the spirit fire’s words that the boundaries between land and sea must be permanent. Uroko leaves Akari’s matter to Tomoru. Since Chisaki is down, Tsumugu could guess she likes Hikari. She admits she likes him more than a friend but is afraid she may end up becoming someone she doesn’t like. Tsumugu stops her not because he doesn’t want to hear her love woes but rather Manaka is around and heard it. So pleads to her to pretend that she did not hear any of this. Akari sees Itaru and wants to break up as she doesn’t want to hurt Miuna anymore. She was wrong to think she could fill Miori’s shoes. After she died and the adults plan to tell Miuna about Akari being her replacement mom, she didn’t like it and stormed out. She then goes to see Miuna and apologizes for everything. She doesn’t need to worry anymore because she will leave. But that night Hikari gets a call from frantic Akari that Miuna has gone missing. Because she didn’t fall into the ocean, the friends start searching for her over land. They finally find her hanging out in some abandoned place. She ran away from home. Akari is so relieved when she finds out Miuna is okay. She realizes she is still in love with Itaru and everyone else. Hikari was right when he told her she was a like a child. She is possessive of the things she loves and she doesn’t want to give them up. Itaru agrees that he doesn’t want to give up on their happiness too. After the friends cook and eat dinner with Miura, I’m not sure why they leave her with Hikari and head back first. Hikari talks to her that there are people who love her but she denies and goes to drown herself! She can’t swim. Hikari pulls her up and she smells him just the same like Miori and Akari. She explains she was really sad when mom died. But when she heard Akari would be her replacement mom, she became afraid. Because if she goes away, she would be sad again and wouldn’t know what to do. Therefore she concluded if she doesn’t love anyone, she won’t be sad. Hikari agrees with her to some degree and although he is not one to say, he doesn’t want to believe there is no hope to love somebody. Wondering if he has anyone he loves, he says he does and now he likes her. She accuses him a dollicon. Lolicon, she means? She has him help out with something. I guess they spend the whole night chewing the gums and complete the graffiti which eventually reads “Don’t go away”. Akari finds them at that wall and after scolding Miuna for making her worry, she promises she won’t go anywhere and will always be by her side. Miuna sees her eyes so blue and tears like the waves. She loves the sea. Akari breaks down further and it makes you think which one is the child.

Episode 6
The class is having a pool session. Hikari challenges Tsumugu to a swim. Surprisingly, the fish boy is lagging behind! Well, not used to swim on the surface and fish people don’t do the freestyle, right? Hikari hurts his toe and it’s bleeding bad. Manaka who is on duty is to take him to the infirmary. She wanted to be considerate and let Chisaki do it but she ignores her. Hikari feels lousy and pathetic. Manaka feels lousy and helpless. Hikari probably isn’t in his best condition since he keeps bumping his toe into furniture. Everyone including Miuna and Sayu help in rebuilding the Wooden Maiden. Chisaki ignores Manaka again and leaves on pretence that her mom asked her to stopped by the post office. Chisaki is not pleased that Manaka was ‘trying to be considerate’ because they agreed to drop this. She doesn’t want to talk to her. Sad Manaka strolls along till Tsumugu sees her. He follows grandpa’s advice to take her to the wharf. They talk about Tomoebi (some light refracting phenomenon) that she didn’t get to see and missed out and also Tsumugu’s comment on her way of talking which feels hesitating. When Manaka bums around back at Shioshishio, the phenomenon starts forming before her eyes. She quickly calls Chisaki to witness this beautiful occurrence. It made them remember that Manaka was late that she missed seeing this, Chisaki scolded her. All that doesn’t matter now. The girls made up. Chisaki always wished things stayed the same and never wanted to change. Although it is still difficult and impossible, she still doesn’t want them to change and wants to be with her friends forever. They wish the guys were here too. They are. Just watching this and eavesdropping at a hidden spot closer than you think.

Episode 7
The Wooden Maiden is completed. Because Tsumugu and Manaka say in perfect sync that they want to see the real Boatdrift Ceremony, the rest tease them as a couple. On the serious side, everybody really wants to see the real ceremony so they agree to work hard on both sides to get it up and running. This includes handing out flyers on the event and obtaining their signatures. Despite getting a bunch of them, Tomoru will not have a talk with the fishing association since the land people were the one who wanted to cancel it. Not even Hikaru’s plea could sway him. He too once thought the land dwellers were pigs and likewise the sea people were just fish. They were wrong. Now he realizes they are all people and can communicate. Eventually Tomoru and his men attend a meeting with the fishing association but he just sat there quietly. When both sides have agreed to go ahead with the ceremony, then the fish people start asking their land counterparts for an apology for calling it off. That’s when the war erupted and the kids have no say. They start throwing accusations at each other and blaming the other at fault. This is what civil and being an adult is all about? Didn’t they say let bygones be bygones? Itaru and Akari walk in at the wrong time and the guys drag them in. When one of them pushes away Hikari, he falls back and accidentally breaks the Wooden Maiden. Tomoru talks to Akari and wants her to break up with Itaru. Taking that communication line from Hikari, it is because they can communicate, the reason why they cannot get along due to the differences they can never get over. Akari mentions each time she talks to him, he always twisted it into some sea and land thingy. She once asked mom why she married him. Simply because she loved him. What if he was a land dweller? That won’t make a difference. She has decided to be Miuna’s mom. She decides to leave her home and Hikari is coming with her since differences with Tomoru cannot be swept under the carpet. But Uroko won’t let them leave and engulfs them in some icy whirlpool. It is because he made a promise to protect them because they are his descendants. But Tomoru begs to show mercy so Uroko lets them leave.

Episode 8
The siblings live at Itaru and Miuna’s place. Itaru thought of going down to the sea with her but Akari doesn’t care if she cannot go back there or no one accepts her. As long as they’re together, she is fine. However Itaru notes Miori used to look at the sea and doesn’t want Akari to go through the same thing. He wants them to go get Uroko’s forgiveness and blessing. Then they can properly get married. The kids heard it and Miuna feels the need to give some sort of present to her. Hikari likes the idea and they can go shopping with their friends in town tomorrow. They have to be careful not to dry up because there is not much salt water around to replenish their Ena. Miuna sees a poster of a shell shaped pendant she wants. As they ride the elevator, the buzzer goes off after too many people got onboard. Since Chisaki was the last one… Was she that fat? Just kidding. Hikari goes out with her and will meet the rest at the top. Time to have a heart to heart talk. Hikari vows to support Manaka if she ever decides to go to the surface. Chisaki couldn’t understand why he would do that. He always tried to protect her. Doesn’t he like her? Hikari realizes then he wasn’t thinking about Manaka’s feelings but his own. Chisaki doesn’t want him to change and hints she will support him if the need ever arises. Miuna finally finds the pendant but it is too expensive. She even calls daddy for advance on her allowance and is willing to work hard for it. However the pendant is sold out. Since it has to be this, they run all over town to look for it. Miuna thought Hikari’s Ena dried up so she splashes her bottled sea water on him. Turns out that his sandals broke. After everyone revitalizes by splashing Ena with each other, they get motivated to do what it takes to find the pendant. Unfortunately they go back empty handed. Tsumugu hints he made something out of fish scales and gave it to grandpa. So it doesn’t matter what it is. The most important thing to Akari is the fact that she chose it. This gives them the idea to go look around the beach. Needle in a haystack? Thankfully it only took them till night fall to get back home and Miuna presenting Akari with the most beautiful pendant she made. Perfect. She wouldn’t have imagined anything better. Suddenly it starts snowing. Not just any ordinary snow but salt flake snow.

Episode 9
Despite the phenomenon only lasting a short while, the fish people are worried if this is the Sea God’s wrath. It’s been getting colder lately too. Uroko needs to tell them something about the upcoming calamity. The kids decide to redo the Boatdrift Ceremony again and this time they seek Tsumugu’s grandpa’s help for a boat. The net that Manaka was caught in the first place, she accidentally drops it. This has grandpa revealing Tsumugu was also this clumsy when he first came here by himself when he was 9 years old since his parents are too busy in the city. Manaka believes Tsumugu found his love for the sea when he was young and he is good at finding things others cannot sea. He came here because he knows what is precious to him. Chisaki still feels down. Tsumugu talks to her. Seems she plans on giving up on Hikari because everybody has changed and moved forward so she should too. But she gets irked when Tsumugu replies she is neglecting her feelings. But he thinks she is fine the way she is now. She doesn’t feel well and goes back down to Shioshishio with Kaname accompanying her. However they see all the adults waiting for them with lamps. Manaka thanks Hikari for being by her side and has learnt a lot. So if he feels hard to go back down, she’ll come with him. She thinks his father would think the same thing and he could be stronger if he tells him he cares. Hikari pats her head and leave (because he felt nervous and had to calm himself down). When Manaka goes back to Shioshishio, her parents are waiting to pick her up and tells her she cannot go up to the surface anymore. Next day, Hikari thought he was late for class but apparently his fish friends didn’t turn up. He senses those guys are trying to interrupt again and goes back down to settle things. Shioshishio is void of people. It’s like a ghost town. A man finds him and wants him to go see Uroko. He won’t. With Manaka surprising here, Hikari takes her and runs away inside a building. She told him what happened but no reason was given why the adults told them they couldn’t go up or out anymore. She left herself because she feels the need to tell him. Hikari realizes her feelings are different than his. He hugs her but she pushes him away. Is this some sort of rejection? Tomoru comes by and he wants Hikari to come home.

Episode 10
Uroko narrates the legend during a time when some humans left for the surface. The Sea God felt sad and went into hiding. Salt flakes slowly fall and accumulated on both sea and land, turning the world into a cold place. A girl dived into the sea to plead to the Sea God and he was moved that he joined the people once again. However now it is not the Sea God who has abandoned the people. Without prayers, the Sea God loses its power. A calamity will occur in the next 50 to 100 years and the only way to survive this freezing death is via hibernation. The people will sleep and wait till the Sea God recharges his power and allow the calamity to pass. Of course those with Ena can only do so. This means surface dwellers will die. The fish people will have a last feast soon to replenish their Ena. Fasting will make their Ena thicker and prepare them for hibernation. Hikari still wants to go up to the surface to warn them. He also wants to do the Boatdrift Ceremony seriously in hopes of preventing this and will go talk to Uroko to try convince him. But he rejects it and even suggests it is better for the sea and land to drift apart. He also knows what it is like to be in love as he was born out of a scale of the Sea God. Hikari tells this to Akari but she isn’t pressing the panicking button. She isn’t a bit alarmed. But Miuna is scared though Akari promises they’ll always be together. Hikari talks to his classmates and Tsumugu believes him because grandpa has been saying something like this. Manaka is in a dilemma. She has been thinking a lot lately especially about the fate of the land dwellers. Then there is the possibility that they may not wake up together or even wake up at all. How long are they going to sleep? How long will the calamity last? Not even the fish people could think this far or even be bothered about it since they’re feasting hard. So much so thinking too much causes Manaka to cry. I think her roll sushi is going to be salty. I suppose it is now or never so Kaname goes up to Chisaki to confess he has always been in love with her.

Episode 11
Kaname doesn’t expect an answer. He felt this sort of thing couldn’t be left unsaid. The salt flakes continue to fall until Shioshishio is like a snow town. It is predicted that the fish people will go into hibernation on the Boatdrift Ceremony day. Akari and Itaru are ready to marry to each other and plan a ceremony that will fit them. The fish kids are allowed to leave school early because the instructions came from Shioshishio and they want to respect that for their hibernation. Hikari also has this same thinking that they may wake up at a different time so Kaname says that things will be different when they wake up. Even the surface too. There is no guarantee. The only time they can be together is now. Hikari plans to continue eating so as not to fall asleep as he doesn’t want to sleep while the world changes. Manaka agrees with him. Akari sees Miuna and Sayu making another chewing gum graffiti. Miuna gets very emotional and runs away. Akari is called by the fishing cooperative guys since they got a request from Hikari. He pleads to them to continue the ceremony. The older guys lament the last time things went and agree to do it. Akari although notes that because they have noticed their fishing haul is lesser due to the impact of environmental changes, Hikari has the right not to take up their selfish request. However the surface dwellers are important to her too and speaking on their side, she too hopes Hikari to accept their plea. Hikari tells this good news to Uroko but he mentions that even if the ceremony does go ahead, things will not change. It has no power in the first place. As he is a scale of the Sea God, his powers cannot reach beyond the sea. So the humans cannot be saved? Hikari doesn’t know how to break it to the rest. Akari thinks he has done his best. She summons everyone to let them know that she and Itaru are getting married. They want the Boatdrift Ceremony to be their wedding as well and she will take the place of the Wooden Maiden. Even if it doesn’t change anything, it would be not right to give up now after working so hard. Besides, they need to try just in case. Akari hopes Miuna could forgive her. Miuna and Itaru are very important people to her so living in a world without them is meaningless. She wants to live her life at the same time and place with them. Miuna starts bawling her tears enough to fill a pond. Everyone gets motivated to continue with the ceremony. Chisaki admires Akari as well as Hikari and Manaka. They are trying hard to change and in the process changed others. Thus she is going to try and confess her feelings to Hikari and not leave it unsaid. After all, she is like them.

Episode 12
Miuna and Sayu are picking flowers for the wedding. Those are weeds, right? They get into a little fight when they think the other is not as evil as herself. When Tomoru comes up to them looking for Miuna, they think he is some sort of pervert and attack him with the weeds! Imagine how much they have to apologize when they realize he is Akari’s father. Miuna hopes he could persuade Akari and Hikari to hibernate. He replies no one will know what will happen if that happens and that the duo might feel safer on the surface despite the danger is still far away. Manaka and Chisaki follow Tsumugu shopping at town. Tsumugu had to use the girls as excuse he is out with his friends because he doesn’t want to talk to his mom. When they return, they see Hikari, Kaname and the lolis trying to lift the heavy flags for the Boatdrift Ceremony. Tomoru and Akari talk. Now that they have calmed down, Akari apologizes and never knew her dad had it tough ever since mom died. She is sorry for being a difficult and selfish daughter to the very end. When the fish kids return to Shioshishio, they see several unconscious kids being taken away. Hibernation for them starts early as their Ena thickens quicker. The quartet then bum around in their old school and Chisaki couldn’t summon her courage to confess to Hikari. Hikari fools around impersonating as one of the teachers. Then Kaname asks the forbidden question. Does Hikari like Manaka? Because they won’t know if they’ll ever wake up at the same time or even wake up at all. Hikari didn’t hesitate to say he likes Manaka. He will always like her even if she likes Tsumugu. This causes her to be confused as she runs away. Hikari goes after her. Chisaki goes after him. Bit Kaname stays put. Yeah, we know. He’s the worst, right? Chisaki manages to get Hikari’s attention when she trips. She wants him to go after Manaka because she is in love with the person he is now, the one who loves Manaka. I think it’s getting a little complicating… He sits with her and admits he is just like her. He was afraid of destroying their relationship. But telling how he felt was enough. Manaka continues to run and run. Or swim. Then it’s like déjà vu again because she gets caught in Tsumugu’s net. Night fishing?

Episode 13
Manaka views Tsumugu like the sun. When she was little, she wasn’t allowed to go up to the surface but always looked up to the sky. The bright sun always made her heart race. When Manaka goes back down and meets Hikari, he continues his confession he loves her. Everyone else is precious to him too. Whether or not she loves him back, she will always be precious to him no matter what. She will tell him her feelings once the Boatdrift Ceremony is over. The fish kids are heading up to the surface on the day of the ceremony. Kaname reminds Chisaki that he will still love her even if they go to sleep and wake up at different times. The quartet see Uroko for his blessing before going up. Tomoru has nothing else to say to them except that since they set this in motion, be sure to see it through. Also, he hopes Akari to lead a happy life. Preparations of the ceremony are underway. Akari is transformed into a beautiful bride-cum-Wooden-Maiden. Miuna tries to practice calling Akari her mom. She has something to say after the ceremony. That night, the ceremony begins. Uroko lights up the spirit fire to guide the boats. Suddenly the waves get rough and violent whirlpools appear. Does the Sea God really intend to take Akari? She is thrown off the boat as Hikari and Manaka dive down to save her. The wave topples Tsumugu’s boat. He is going to drown as Chisaki dives in to save him. She doesn’t have enough strength to swim up but with Kaname’s help they manage to bring him to a boat. Because the waves are strong, one of the pier pillars breaks off and is going to crush the boat. The driver has to make a swift turn and this causes Kaname to fall off and back into the sea. His heart aches when he sees Chisaki holding on to unconscious Tsumugu. Manaka catches Akari and pleads to the Sea God not to take people from their loved ones. If a sacrifice is needed, she will be it. Manaka crashes down to the sea floor. Hikari couldn’t reach her as the current pushes him up. Shortly, the whirlpools dissipate. The black sea is calm again. Everyone sees Akari floating on the surface and go rescue her.

Episode 14
Some time skip must have occurred. We see Chisaki visiting Tsumugu’s grandpa at hospital before heading to Saya Mart. Akari has a little son named Akira and his special skill is kanchou!!! OMG! Naughty boy just did a kanchou on Chisaki’s ass! Akari remembers after that tragic Boatdrift Ceremony, she became depressed and it got complicated when she is pregnant. But Miuna cheered her up and thanked her because she is happy she is going to have a brother. Miuna and Sayu are middle school students now. They are taller but still have that loli look? Today is also the Tomoebi event. Some moonlight phenomenon that projects the image of the night sky on the frozen water during a certain hour. Sayu warns Miuna a guy is going to confess to her on Tomoebi. Miuna vows after that tragedy, she won’t cry because she believed Hikari and the rest are somewhere happy and safe in the sea. It is just out of her reach. She hints she likes Hikari but that guy likes Manaka. Tsumugu and his professor are oceanography researcher researching the frozen spot for Tomoebi. They are researching about sea villages and its connection with the surface. Chisaki doesn’t want to go to Tomoebi as she feels it is useless unless all of them are here. Flashback after that tragedy, she had no relatives on land and Akari would love to take her in but Tsumugu’s grandpa offers to let her live at his place since Akari’s little apartment is so cramped. Besides, grandpa was from the sea too. Happy days pass and Chisaki and Tsumugu are high school students. Then grandpa collapsed and admitted to hospital. Chisaki was the most frantic one because she is afraid her loved ones will be taken away again. Then Tsumugu left for the city to study to become an oceanography researcher in hopes he will learn what actually happened on that day. On Tomoebi night, the phenomenon is about to begin. The sea has been calm ever since that day. A boy wants to confess to Miuna but she guessed his intentions first and then apologizes-cum-rejects him because she loves another person. Want to bet who that guy is? This kid won’t give up. She won’t give up. When the phenomenon begins, Tsumugu detects strange currents and there is light coming out from the sea. Suddenly before Miuna and Tsumugu is naked and unconscious Hikari! He looks the same and has not aged. Miuna gives him CPR. Seriously. CPR to a fish people? But it did the trick. First thing Hikari is worried is Manaka. He didn’t recognize Miuna initially (she looks sad). He is in a state of shock and Miuna notices his eyes were frozen in sadness like the calm of the sea.

Episode 15
Tsumugu tells Chisaki about Hikari’s awakening. He is exactly the same 5 years ago. Even if he has been sleeping for some time, he is still exhausted. Maybe he has to absorb all the sudden changes. I mean, suddenly Miuna is the same age as him and almost as tall as he is. What’s more, Akari has got a kanchou loving son (in which later Hikari is trying to teach him finer points of it???!!!). Oddly, Chisaki didn’t go see Hikari and went to see grandpa instead. His old classmate, Sayama picks him up to go around town. He sees Sayu for the first time. The fishing association guys are happy to see him and even saved the flag he was waving on that day. Hikari just felt sick looking at it. Tsumugu didn’t realize Chisaki was back and entered her room to accidentally see her changing. She was looking at herself and asks if she has changed. He notes she used to talk a lot of this back then. She explains all she wanted was Hikari to remain the same and feels sad that she was the one who changed. Tsumugu agrees. She did change. She is much more beautiful now. Tears of happiness? Miuna then confronts Tsumugu why the childhood friends haven’t seen each other. Just like Miuna, he too doesn’t understand why. Because Hikari and Chisaki have been together for so long, it may only be something they understand. So Tsumugu asks Hikari this when he resurfaces from yet another failed descent to Shioshishio (some current keeps pushing him away). He blows his top. Never has he yelled like that before. It’s because he just woke up the other day and everything has changed. He can’t take anymore if he sees these drastic changes. He doesn’t want to think or know about them. And then those guys had to give him that flag. It just brings back bad memories. He was so loud that hiding Miuna could hear him. She rushes back to find her flag that she had packed (Akira trying to distract her with some underwear?! Maybe he thinks this is what she is searching for). While wandering, Hikari and Chisaki finally accidentally meet. She apologizes for changing. But Hikari has realized after seeing all the change. It is indeed scary. But he is relieved to see her haven’t changed one bit. Really? She is taller than him and has a nice body. He is back to his cheeky self and this brings tears to her eyes. Hikari vows he is not going to be surprised anymore. He sees Miuna waving her flag. He takes a closer look at her slightly modified flag (hearts and butterflies added) and gives out a good laugh. Miuna is happy to see him smile like that and wants to protect it. When Chisaki returns home, Tsumugu can tell she has already met Hikari.

Episode 16
Hikari returns to school. Back in the same class? Repeating his grade? Yeah. He is quite the popular guy. Everyone has this thought: Isn’t Hikari now Miuna’s uncle? Mind boggling… The boy Miuna rejected, I guess he has to let go of her now. Hikari misinterprets they like each other. Because Akari came down with rubella, Hikari and Miuna are to head to town themselves to get new tailored uniforms for Hikari since he is back to school (Tsumugu’s are too big). As Hikari is flustering this looks like some sort of date (which I think Miuna is hoping for), Miuna calls Sayu to join them. But they’re so ‘close’ to each other that Sayu feels like she is the third wheel. I mean, Hikari nonstops teasing Miuna especially with her squeaky boots that sound like a pig’s fart. Really. The tailor gets Hikari’s measurements and Miuna insists he makes Hikari’s old school in Shioshishio. Outside, Sayu talks to Miuna and hints that because Hikari is her uncle, they can’t enter a relationship even though he is just a step-uncle. Miuna thinks she is being mean by bringing that up but Sayu tells her off the need of calling her to come in the first place. It’s like trying to show off her flirting because she is happy the guy she likes is back. The tailor worked so hard to get the measurements and now Hikari says he doesn’t need it? Well, he goes out only to see the girls fighting and Miuna runs away. Sayu is in tears. Luckily Sayama is passing by so they hitch a ride home. Because of what Sayama said, Hikari has an idea where Miuna ran to. It’s that abandoned place where she once ran away and tried to drown herself. In addition to cheer her up, he is back to his cheeky teasing self. Miuna can’t stand him anymore and throws her shoes. I guess everything in this place is falling apart so the crane starts falling down! Thankfully it misses but Miuna slips and falls into the sea. Suddenly she realizes she could breathe underwater and swim! How the?! She could see the ocean’s beauty as well as Hikari coming to get her. She is excited and wants to tell Akari when Miuna finds them. She is glad she is okay. Safe to say, they made up. And Hikari’s teasing continues… This guy just doesn’t give up, doesn’t he? Meanwhile, a pleasant surprise (or shock) for us because here is… Kaname!!! He’s back. In his birthday suit asking the bar master what day it is.

Episode 17
Hikari and Miuna go to the fishing association to see Kaname. Tsumugu and Chisaki too. Hasn’t change a bit. Tsumugu’s professor takes down his statements but it seems Kaname cannot remember much. When he came to, he was being carried by the current. He also heard sounds of shifting sands (Hikari didn’t hear anything on his awakening). Miuna mentions she also heard something like that when she fell and everyone finds out she can now breathe underwater. Her birth mom was originally from Shioshishio. The professor thanks them for the data and believes everyone else in Shioshishio will wake up too. Kaname stays at Tsumugu’s place as he observes Tsumugu and Chisaki working together. It’s like everything just flows smoothly. The class is all abuzz that Kaname is awake. The girls are excited. Because he is more handsome than Hikari. That effective ends his popularity streak. But for Sayu, looks like she is undergoing what Miuna felt. Her childhood crush has revived. So when she first accidentally sees him, he couldn’t recognize her. She felt heartbroken and ran away. Kaname talks to Chisaki that he was going around to see what has changed and what hasn’t. He wonders if she has changed. Even so, he says he likes older woman. Eh? What? The professor comes back with a report that Miuna has a skin membrane that resembles closely to Ena. This is a first case since we all know that if a parent is a surface dweller, the child definitely will not have Ena. Kaname now talks to Hikari about the changes. Hikari says he won’t change because if Manaka wakes up, everything might be too shocking for her. Even if she still likes Tsumugu, he won’t change. Miuna heard that so she joins the depression club with Sayu. Sayu feels pathetic with these feelings but Miuna views otherwise and won’t change. Sayu is surprised when Kaname calls to her. He’s cool. She’s flustering. Cat caught her tongue? Tsumugu and the professor have analyzed the data from the currents and all and believe the power protecting Shioshishio is weakening. They think they have pinpoint where the current originates which is of course Shioshishio. They want Hikari and Kaname to help locate it. Miuna also wants to help since she has Ena. As they dive into the sea, Hikari and Kaname couldn’t hear any sand sound. Only Miuna could so she follows it and guides the guys deep below.

Episode 18
They enter some sort of wall mirage and here it is, Shioshishio! Everything is covered in salt flake. This is the first time Miuna sees this place and finds it beautiful. Kaname plants some sensor for Tsumugu. They walk around to see the denizens sleeping. Like as though time stopped for them. Because Hikari thinks Miuna thinks they’re all dead, he gets a little angry and requests some time off to go home and cool himself down. So they’re going to make her wait here while Hikari goes to see his dad sleeping peacefully and tells him about what happened? Yeah well, he should thank Miuna in the face rather than him because without her they couldn’t have got here. Miuna wanders to the middle school and could see visions of Hikari and friends during their days here. When the guys meet up, they realize Miuna is missing. Just follow the footsteps. As Miuna leaves, she sees Uroko. Thinking he is some god, she hopes he could tell her where Manaka is. He believes she is lying and wonders if that is what she is truly looking for. Once the guys find her, Uroko disappears. Miuna thinks she knows where Manaka is. It leads them to a huge ruin where all the Wooden Maiden lay in rest. It’s like a freaking huge graveyard for Wooden Maiden. Yeah, a little horror show too. In the middle is sleeping Manaka. They notice something. Manaka’s Ena is slowing coming off. This is the sound that Miuna heard. At this rate she will die. Hikari tries to talk to wake her up. Although she is slightly moving but it’s not enough to wake her to her senses. Kaname warns of waking her up abruptly as it may have some negative effect. But if they don’t bring her to the surface she’ll die. So screw it. Once Hikari takes Manaka, the place starts to rumble. Wrath of the Sea God? They swim up towards the surface and Miuna caught glimpse of Uroko’s disappointed face.

Episode 19
Chisaki narrates she and Manaka once got lost in a sea forest but Hikari came to their rescue like a man. That’s why when he found Manaka, it wasn’t any surprise to her. If there was somebody who could find her, it would be Hikari. Manaka is still sleeping although the doctor diagnoses her progress as stable and steady. As though Hikari couldn’t wait so he asks and talks to her in her sleep. He vows never again to let her go. Chisaki talks to Tsumugu’s grandpa about what happened. When she mentions that Manaka is oddly losing her Ena, he adds that there is more to the legend of the Wooden Maiden. People don’t talk about it because it is a sad ending. Tsumugu mentions his professor won’t publish their findings soon and will compile everything and officially present it as an academic journal. Kaname is not impressed because it’s like they’re doing this for reputation. Tsumugu explains if the paper isn’t acknowledged, they will lose research grants and all that they have worked on will be wasted. Then the media will get involved and may cause problem for Miuna. Chisaki hopes Kaname would let this go since a lot happened. Probably he’s being sarcastic when he notes she is acting like an adult. And maybe this brings back some nostalgic memories as she goes to try on her old school uniform. Too small. Too tight. So when she trips and the guys rush in to see what’s going on, imagine her embarrassment… Later Chisaki wonders if being an adult is to lose something. But Tsumugu says that she found new things to replace that. Tsumugu finally gets to thank Kaname for saving him that day although the latter had thoughts not to and could have got Chisaki all for himself. Even if that happened, Tsumugu will never allow him to be with Chisaki. Nevertheless he is glad they came back. Chisaki thinks of going to Shioshishio alone. A map and compass enough? Yeah, then the current is too strong. Compass going wild. Thankfully Hikari is there to help her as they enter Shioshishio safely. So they still talk about change and Hikari mentions his restlessness because he wants to figure out why Manaka’s Ena is disappearing. Chisaki tells grandpa’s story. After the Sea God and Wooden Maiden married, they had descendants and they flourished. However the Wooden Maiden still missed her land people and became depressed. The Sea God did all he could to make her happy but the only way was to let her return to the land. In exchange, he took something from her. That something could be her Ena. This gives Hikari the much needed boost. Now he knows what to do. He is going to find Uroko and learn the truth. Once he gets Manaka’s Ena back, he will help Tsumugu with the surface. Chisaki understands that she still likes Hikari. She thought their frozen time will start moving again after 5 years. But after a week, Manaka still remains asleep.

Episode 20
Hikari has been diving frequently to Shioshishio to find Uroko for help but he is nowhere to be seen. Also, the sea feels colder ever since they took Manaka. Because the town always play that song at 5pm in memory for that Boatdrift Ceremony, they get this idea to play a tape of the people singing it in hopes she would wake up. Since Hikari has been ditching school just to find ways Manaka to wake up, he gets into a little argument with Miuna. Hikari dreams of Manaka losing her Ena. Miuna and Sayu have spent 3 hours trying to find a way to wake up Manaka. I don’t know if those heavy stuffs are related. Sayu is bored and unfocused. I mean, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack. So could you blame Sayu for suggesting his wild method since she is reading Snow White? Maybe Hikari should just kiss Manaka to wake her up. So crazy it might work. But since Miuna is sceptic, Sayu thinks she doesn’t want Manaka to wake up. Playing the tape doesn’t work and then Hikari gets high fever. Diving too much? Tsumugu contacts Miuna and hopes to meet. Because of some theory that her development of Ena might be due to survival instincts and thus her body changed and dormant abilities awakened. Tsumugu thinks he is hard to read because everyone here is overflowing with emotions. He was somewhat envious. Miuna isn’t sure about that. When Hikari saw her Ena, he said she was just like him. Now how come Manaka is losing her Ena while she is gaining it? She thinks she is the only one with different feelings towards Manaka. Maybe she doesn’t want her to wake up. Tsumugu shares he initially didn’t want them to wake up because he feared Chisaki would disappear on him. But when they did, he felt very happy. Miuna gets the courage to tell Hikari Sayu’s idea of kissing her. Not Miuna, but Manaka lah! Either way, he feels embarrassed and they end up in some shouting contest. So loud that they could wake up the dead. See? Even Manaka is telling him off that he shouldn’t yell at girls. Oh, wait! MANAKA HAS AWAKENED???!!! Just like that?! After 7 episodes…

Episode 21
The quartet reunite for the first time in 5 years. Manaka is still your lively and cheerful girl. Like it was just yesterday. For her, that is. She’s pretty amazed with the town covered in salt flakes. Hikari couldn’t understand why she could laugh this much because she has already completely lost her Ena and cannot go back to Shioshishio. So he asks her what happened right after the Boatdrift Ceremony. She cannot remember much but she heard somebody’s voice. It wasn’t Uroko by the way. It could be the Sea God maybe. Also something about that voice wanting to give her something or she has to give him something. Chisaki and Tsumugu are at the hospital, attending to grandpa as usual. Tsumugu says that by the end of the month he needs to go back to his university campus because the university has instructor the professor to compile all the data and put together their conclusion. During dinner, Hikari whisks Manaka away just to ask her about that promise. Remember the one she said she will tell him after the Boatdrift Ceremony? Maybe he’s being too pushy and his face a little scary for her to say it. He jumps the gun thinking it is about Tsumugu. Next morning, Tsumugu suddenly rushes to Akari’s home. He needs to see Manaka. Once everybody gathers, he shows his elbow. It’s that fish! OMG! Behold! Shocking? He feels Uroko has cursed him. Hikari takes it as a positive sign that Uroko is somewhere close by.

Episode 22
So they’re putting a porn magazine and Uroko’s favourite food to lure him out? You’ll never know if you don’t try. The salt flake snow is getting worse and Tsumugu’s professor is being called back as the research is being delayed by the bad weather. So when they discover the porn magazine is gone, they think Uroko must have taken the bait and is nearby. Because Manaka couldn’t remember about Hikari’s confession at their old school before they went into hibernation, he becomes upset. Too emo. So Miuna chases after him and unexpectedly they reach Uroko. So what is he doing here? I guess he got bored watching over the fish people and wanted to come to the surface. That took time, the reason he didn’t pop up immediately when the fish kids start waking up. He could smell Miuna’s Ena has developed quite nicely and is ovulating. Say, what? Hikari bombards him with questions and the all-important what happened to Manaka. So Uroko mentions about the legend and the part we know that ended in tragedy. There’s more. After she returned to the surface, the Sea God lost his life and his scales scattered through the sea. Uroko is one of those scales. Till this day, his raw emotions drift through the sea. The spirit fire which is a more structured feeling seeks to prevent what is to befall the sea and surface. But because those emotions remain in the sea, the sometimes imbue the dangers of the sea with semi-sentient purpose. On the Boatdrift Ceremony, those emotions dragged Manaka to the bottom of the sea and made her the sacrifice. Manaka was then covered in a sheet of thick Ena and thanks to her the sea became calmer and the impending demise on the surface stopped. The spirit fire and fragments of emotions became one. There was balance. Manaka couldn’t let go of her feelings and fully accept her fate so those feelings tried to free her. It also began destroying the Ena and sending bits of it towards the surface. So what Miuna heard was Miuna’s feelings from her Ena. When they started looking for Manaka, the Sea God feared the Wooden Maiden would be taken away again and decided to take something else from her. That was when she lost the rest of her Ena. In short, the sea was calm when Manaka was the sacrifice but since they rescued her, the impending doom may arrive sooner. Hikari is as usual his mad self so Uroko asks him if he loves Manaka. This is not a joke. He knows his feelings will never reach her or as of anybody’s. Because the other thing the Sea God took from her is her ability to fall in love. So she’s playing happily with Akira… That’s good, right? Not good for Hikari of course.

Episode 23
Hikari tells Miuna about the probably thing Manaka wanted to tell him. It was probably her love for Tsumugu. Miuna thinks it’s Hikari but he knows he can’t be the one (that outburst in the revisited old school classroom). She suggests talking to everyone else. The camp is split especially Kaname and Chisaki who think Manaka’s inability to love isn’t so bad because she seems like having fun now. Sayu is most upset because she thinks they’re being self centred and haven’t even asked Manaka and storms off. Later, Manaka sees something shiny in the sea. Hikari picks it up to be a shiny white rock from the sea slug. White indicates true feelings but black indicates it is misplaced. Manaka doesn’t remember what she wished for but Hikari wants her to hold on to it. Hikari thinks she must have talked to the sea slug about her feelings. He needs to ask Tsumugu. If her feelings were so strong about it, he believes she will remember if she has help from the person she loves. Miuna talks to Manaka who says she keeps hearing sounds of waves in her head. Miuna borrows the rock and promises to make it better. Next day Sayu talks to Miuna about what she said. She feels it is not right to lose your ability to fall in love even if that person doesn’t love you back. It might be easier for her but she wouldn’t be who she was now as for those 5 years it was thoughts of Kaname that kept her going. That’s why she is going to confess to Kaname.

Miuna made the rock into a pendant. Manaka is grateful and this causes Miuna to lose control of her emotions. Hikari tells Tsumugu that Manaka is in love with him and wants him to do whatever it takes to get those feelings back like dating her. What about hugging and kissing? That allowed? Tsumugu asks how sure is he that Manaka likes him. Despite her reactions to him, can that be considered proof? Hikari filled with angst tries to beat him up but Tsumugu has developed a lot in these past 5 years. You can’t touch him. Tsumugu says he won’t lie even if Manaka loves him, it is not good to toy with other people’s feelings. Because he loves Chisaki. Guess what? Chisaki heard it! She dives into the sea to hide her embarrassment and Tsumugu goes after her. Hey wait. He can’t breathe! Too late… He could hear the sounds of the Ena and feel all its emotions. I don’t know how, the Ena envelops him and he is now able to breathe underwater and swim! WTF?! The fish separates from him. He meets Chisaki at Shioshishio and explains how his parents hated the sea. That’s why they left grandpa who wants to be near it for the city. Tsumugu loves the sea and wants to be close to it. He has her remember when Hikari mistook those bullies for destroying the Wooden Maiden and she discovered the truth and tried to cover him. He couldn’t understand why she did that because it’s like she’s making a fool of herself. She’s always quiet and calm and yet she became so fierce that she can’t handle her. He thought she was just like the sea. Get what he is saying?

Episode 24
Tsumugu has been with her for 5 years so he can sense she has the same feelings for him. He hugs her but she breaks free and asserts she doesn’t love him. So when she goes back up, Kaname offers to listen. He already accepted that she will never look at him and if it’s not Hikari, it would be Tsumugu. Anyhow it won’t be him. Chisaki’s reason that she can’t love anyone else is because it would be like betraying everyone whose time stopped 5 years ago. She was the only one who didn’t change and felt scared. She was sure her feelings didn’t change and still loved him. Kaname says none of that matters now because all of them are here and she doesn’t need to hide anymore. Akari shows Manaka a kiddie love letter Akira wrote for Manaka! Manaka runs away and this may send signals that the poor little kid got rejected. Actually she couldn’t understand what it means despite starting to cry. When Chisaki attends to Tsumugu’s grandpa, she asks about the Wooden Maiden legend that he didn’t manage to finish. When the Wooden Maiden went back to the surface, no one was waiting for her because the guy she loved died as he drowned while he searched for her. The end. Tsumugu takes Hikari and Kaname to have a guy to guy talk. Apparently he beings them along to Uroko and requests to place a curse on him again. Is this a joke? Tsumugu wants to do the Boatdrift Ceremony again. Detritus are dead cells and planktons floating all over the sea. He felt a multitude of emotions when he got his Ena. It wasn’t the Sea God’s emotions but everyone in town and the fish. He is sure among them are Manaka’s. Tsumugu’s theory is that if Manaka’s true feelings are encased in that pendant and they put it on the Wooden Maiden, they may lead the Sea God to believe Manaka has returned and thus returning her feelings. It sounds crazy but it’s better than not doing anything.

Apart from Uroko’s help, everyone also chips in to make this Boatdrift Ceremony a success. It’s like nobody had trauma or anything since more and more people even from those during their time gladly chip in. Chisaki is in that guilty mode again, thinking she should be the sacrifice this time. Kaname just tells her to stop it. I didn’t know that Sayu doesn’t know Kaname likes Chisaki and boy she sounds slightly upset. I don’t know why she’s being so emotionally upset about him trying to shrug his feelings off like a joke or something. So when Kaname starts his usual preaching that he is the outsider, blah, blah, blah, this is the perfect time for Sayu to build up her confession that she managed to get through these 5 years thanks to him. He was always in her heart. So please look at her not as a kid but a woman. Then surprise! Kaname starts crying too. When he woke up, he feared he would be alone and that no one was waiting for him. Hikari had Akari’s family and Chisaki had Tsumugu’s family. Knowing someone is thinking of him makes him happy. Sayu expects to be rejected but here’s another surprise! Kaname is willing to start anew from here. Just the 2 of them. He’ll only look at her. So that’s the end for him for Chisaki? I guess he knows when to give up. Time to move forward. Hikari talks to Manaka and hints that there is someone he likes. Being the retard she is, she would love for him to tell her more and everything about that! Not going to be easy… Especially to say the name of the person he loves. But would Manaka still understand? The important thing now is to make the Boatdrift Ceremony a success.

Episode 25
Cheeky Akira snatches the pendant but trips and it falls into the sea. Miuna dives in to save it but could see it dissolving. That is when she heard the voice of Manaka echoing she loves Hikari. Flashback when Tsumugu fished up Manaka the second time. She was talking about the sun and the sea and how she loved Hikari. She didn’t want Tsumugu to tell others because she knew how Chisaki felt as she too didn’t want others to know. Just like Hikari said, to get Manaka’s feelings back, the person she loves must work hard. If that is the case, Hikari has already done a lot. He adds love is like the sea. You have to embrace everything including the sadness. That’s when new feelings are born. Manaka couldn’t sleep because she still keeps hearing sound of waves but when Miuna puts her hand over her, it stops. Tsumugu talks to Chisaki to talk about her feelings. She doesn’t have to lie anymore. Chisaki always wanted to believe Hikari and Manaka love each other because that way things between then will never change. Tsumugu believes she loves him. Is he being confident? No, really. This isn’t about keeping the quartet together anymore. So admit it that she’s in love with him. Yup. He’s pretty sure about it and is trying to think of a way to make her admit! He’s serious! He even asks permission to hug her but why does he do it even if she says no? Funny guy… Similarly, Miuna talks to Hikari and tells him she knows he loves Manaka. If acknowledging it isn’t enough, she makes him admit it! Not only that, say he loves Manaka a few times! What the heck?! Well, this is her way of hurting herself so that she’ll be able to throw her feelings for him away as loving him would hurt. Some logic. Well, a bit of crying helps ease the heart pain…

The day of the Boatdrift Ceremony is here. Uroko the big shot is chauffeured to a makeshift altar. He thinks the Wooden Maiden doesn’t look like the original. Not to say the original was pretty. He puts it that it was a convenient way for surface dwellers to get rid of people they don’t want. Hikari asks if he loves the original Wooden Maiden and if it is okay to let her return to the surface. Uroko believes he is the scale of Sea God’s shoulder blade. If he were his hands, he would have felt her. That night, the ceremony proceeds as usual. Everything goes smoothly till a storm kicks up. Déjà vu again. Uh huh. Manaka gets thrown into the sea. Again. All the kids dive in to try and save her (remember, she has no Ena). Kaname prevents Sayu from falling off. Tsumugu could see Miuna’s Ena glowing and believes the sea is responding to her feelings. He reveals Manaka loves Hikari and Miuna’s feelings are very similar. Miuna catches Manaka and transfer some Ena over to her. Miuna can sense her feelings. They felt at ease together because their Ena is shouting it loves Hikari. The whirlpool spits out Manaka and takes Miuna instead. Hikari and Tsumugu swim further to chase after her. They arrive in the Wooden Maiden’s graveyard. Hikari can’t get close to Miuna as a barrier is forming around her. Hikari is furiously trying to break it but his attempt is futile. Miuna is losing consciousness fast and all she could think of is how much she loves Hikari.

Episode 26
Although Manaka is brought to the surface, she is unconscious as she remembers she could feel all the feelings from everyone past and present in the sea. Among them are the maiden’s feelings. Continuing from the legend, the Sea God as much as he loved her, this also caused him pain as she had her own love on the surface. He was the one who tore them apart. It is even more painful to see her cry in secret as she is unable to forget him. The Sea God knew her lover had killed himself out of grief of losing her so before sending her back up, she took her ability to love to prevent her from falling to the same fate. When her heart is calm, the sea is also calm. A big glow is emitting from the sea. Hikari is still trying to break through. Like as though he became the harem guy, he talks about always wanting Manaka to love him but realized Miuna is the one closest and never realized her feelings and hurt her. If love has him end up in pain like this, he didn’t want it in the first place. Falling in love is terrible. So he pleads to the Sea God take his ability to fall in love instead. His feelings resonate through the ocean. Miuna had always wanted to tell the Sea God and Hikari this. If the painful feelings of love can cause that person to cry this much for you, then it makes her the happiest person ever. The spirit fire suddenly acts up. It lights all of Shioshishio and makes its way to the graveyard. Hikari’s determination has him break the barrier and bring Miuna to safety before the flames burn the entire graveyard. They could feel the maiden’s feelings dissolving in the sea. They could also hear her true feelings. Despite the memories of her beloved was precious, what was even more precious was the time she spent with the Sea God. Uroko gives out a laugh that the Sea God took away her ability to love without even knowing the one whom her feelings were for. And it took him this long to realize.

Surprisingly appearing from the horizon towards them is Tomoru. He is glad to see Miuna big. He mentions about the child losing the Ena as a result of the union between land and sea people. This was to make sure they had a chance of survival and ensure descendants and thus their hibernation. Now that Miuna has Ena, it proves that there is still hope even if they wake up. Tomoru knows what is happening because Hikari had been talking to him while he was asleep. His feelings reached him. On the surface, the sea stops being calm and there are now waves. The fish people of Shioshishio awake and head to the surface for the first time. Akari reunites with her father. Cheeky Akira pulls his beard… And so our paired couples also reunite except for Manaka who goes straight for Miuna instead of Hikari. Because that guy is tough, right? Don’t tell me he needs a hug from her too? Here are the few things that happened in the aftermath. Seems the fish people have the choice of waking up themselves. Those who remain sceptical continue to sleep. Akira now has Ena and is cheekier than ever with this newfound ability. Manaka flusters when Tsugumu mentions Hikari’s name. The duo also try imitating the fish (Akira too). Chisaki continues to live at grandpa’s place because she is worried the soup he makes is too salty for his blood pressure. Tsumugu leaves for his college but will be back every vacation. Uroko notes to the Sea God that humans are interesting because they continue to chase their dreams even after so much suffering and without finding any answer. The salt flakes have stopped and the sea is warmer now. Manaka talks to Hikari about the thing she wants to say before the Boatdrift Ceremony. Hikari already knows.

A Lol In The Sea. Something Feels Fishy…
Overall I feel that this little anime is quite an okay watch despite some things that I don’t get. What are the things that I don’t get? There are a few but the main one is the part whereby Miuna and Tsumugu suddenly get their Ena somehow makes it feel so cheap and it is out of convenience that they obtain it. I mean, having Ena is a big thing. It allows you to talk and breathe underwater while continue to be warm (you don’t know how cold the sea is, don’t you?). And finally when they put Akira having Ena too, it just made it all the more confusing. So in short, everybody can get Ena, right? From the youngest newborn and the oldest granny, if they soak themselves long enough and use their feelings, they’ll get Ena. Is that what they are saying? Heck, the world doesn’t need to die a slow death because eventually everybody will get Ena and hibernate and the world will be saved. If this is so, then it is true that everything really originates from the sea. I guess human evolution will eventually bring us back to where we came from, huh? It makes the warnings like the union between a sea and surface dweller feel like old wives’ tale.

The slow pacing drama in the first half of the series might turn some off. It seems more like fun stuffs and some light-hearted drama. It gets a little darker with the drama in the second half after that tragic Boatdrift Ceremony. It also gets complicated with the melodrama of romance and unrequited love and this drags out the drama, which may be unpalatable to some. I mean, the fish kids have been friends for so long and it’s not like they don’t understand each other, right? So a simple argument could, well, drag on for some time when everything could be settled in a simple manner. But then again, what would you do if you were in their shoes (or fins – oh heck, they don’t even have gills)? Therefore if you are not into this kind of drama and the likes, you’ll find it hard to keep your focus in this series and might not even reach the end.

There is a lot of character development and you could see how each one grows, changes (or not) and the bond they develop among each other within the over 2 dozen episodes. They play a part that affects everything like a chain reaction. Things may start off with cliche characters because when you have a group of friends, there is one that is bound to be the hot-headed kid who lets his emotions rule his heart. So much so, you think that anger management might not help Hikari at all but if it doesn’t get this in check by the time he is in adult, you can imagine how violent he gets. But luckily enough for Hikari despite still being a hot-headed kid overall, he doesn’t scream his head off as often as he used to after he starts to understand things. Then there’s the cry-baby but cheerful Manaka, the kind and beautiful Chisaki and the laid back Kaname to complete the quartet. Mostly they worry if they would still remain the same after the hibernation. Change is something scary and naturally for all humans (and fish people alike too) we feel more secure when we are in familiar territory. In a way you could say that the events changed them but generally still remain the same.

Tsumugu is the calmest and most rational among the main characters. He parts good advice and is a considerate person. Only if he would smile more often because from his robotic expression and monotonous voice, it’s like as though his expression section is jammed up. Then there are Sayu and Miuna who have grown up and less brattier. They’ve come a long way. For little girls, that is. Then there is Uroko, a scale of the Sea God who doesn’t really do much except bum around and keep watch. What else can a mere scale do? I wonder if there are many more of him in other parts of the ocean. The ‘best’ character goes to cheeky Akira. This little kid steals every scene he appears in because of his innocently cheeky antics. You’ll definitely break into a smile each time he does something ‘funny’. It’s like a much welcome relief after all that drama and tension.

Romance plays a big part for driving the plot and direction of the series but somehow I feel it spoils some part of the series. Well, nobody said love was easy. Even fish people can fall in love, right? That is the problem when you are being very close friends since childhood. When you hit your teenage years and those hormones start kicking in, you get confuse between love and just want to be good friends. So initially the love chart flow is like this as we thought: Kaname -> Chisaki -> Hikari -> Manaka -> Tsumugu. Especially with Chisaki trying to protect her friends and being too emo about this topic, I guess that is where all the love problems come out. Basically she is trying to hold back her love and deny it because she thinks it wouldn’t be nice loving someone if her friend loves the same person. Nice girl as always. But the world doesn’t work that way.

And when the series is beginning to come to an end, this long outstanding love polygon is resolved ‘nicely’ and that somebody ends up with somebody. Almost. Too convenient. Like for Kaname who has loved Chisaki for ages suddenly can let go and go for Sayu. It’s a good thing to move forward but I just can’t help feel it is just too sudden and convenient. Same case with Chisaki who gives up Hikari to settle with Tsumugu. They didn’t really say it but that last episode of them hugging each other must be a big indicator, right? So this means Hikari and Manaka are back together like they always should. Like we always knew it would. Yeah. So can you say that because of the duo who can’t make their feelings clear early are the cause of this love mess? Oh yeah, Akira’s love for Manaka could be just brushed off as a kiddie love and you bet it will go away when he grows up. Will it? Only poor Miuna is the one ended up as the ‘loser’. But hey, that guy who tried to confess to her… Maybe she’ll settle for him? I mean, in the last episode he still admires her from afar although there is no reaction whatsoever from Miuna. Pair them off and we’ve got the greatest happy ending of couples. And you can count Akari and Itaru’s love, still going strong after 5 years. Heck, even the Sea God isn’t spared. Only his misinterpreted love on his maiden started out all this and dragged our friends into it. So people, when it comes to love, not even gods are spared. Humans and gods would act and feel the same. Yeah. Love is painful if it doesn’t go your way, isn’t it? That’s why it is also beautiful if you see it from Miuna’s point of view.

The most excellent part of this series is its drawing and art. They really put very high quality into the animation and it is no wonder that I was in awe watching the spectacular visuals in every episode. Whether they are scenes of Shioshishio underwater or the town itself, even the phenomena like rain and salt flake snow are very impressive. Even when salt flakes are falling or the Ena dispersing. It feels magic. So if there is a reason why you want to watch this series, watch it for the art style. It is quite breathtaking. The characters also look good but they have this moe cuteness look in them especially the girls. So cute you might want to cuddle them. Just kidding. It’s not surprising if you find the character design very similar to Tari Tari, Hanasaku Iroha and recently Glasslip. All of these animes are produced by P.A. Works. Consistent quality, I’d say. But of course all of their works aren’t just confined to this style as they have produced other animes such as Another, Angel Beats and Uchouten Kazoku which have different art styles than this one.

This brings me to another topic. Because of the gorgeous art, something trivial bugs me. The underwater part. At times when the scene moves down to Shioshishio or somewhere underwater, the way the fish people interact is like as though they are on land. What do I mean? You know when you dive underwater, your vision isn’t that clear? That’s because you have all those particles floating and the sunlight is being refracted and you can see those wavy water shadows on the sea bed or something. However in most scenes, you don’t see these ‘water effects’ thus making it look like as though they are doing things on land and with air. I know the Ena makes them able to breathe, talk, communicate and do other stuffs like other humans do but it makes it so unreal that it doesn’t feel like they are naturally underwater at all. I mean, they can swim, right? So why the heck is there a need for them to ‘walk’ underwater despite Shioshishio having paths and walkways?

And yeah, even if they do swim, it seems like as though they are ‘flying’. That means some of the fish and other creatures swimming in the sea, it feels like as though they are just floating through space. A bit unnatural I feel. And even if you can talk properly underwater, sounds travels differently in water medium unlike air so it isn’t going to sound that all clear and good. Muffled. What about that ‘underwater echo humming noise’? You know, like as though some big generator going on because of how water transmits sounds. At least that is how it sounds to me. I suppose there is a reason why they make it so clear instead of putting characteristics of water. If everything looks murky and sounds blur, you wouldn’t be able to enjoy the sceneries, drama and conversation since we’ll be too busy squinting our eyes trying to make sense of what we are watching and hearing. That would be too annoying. But some things still doesn’t feel right. Like the final episode whereby fire is burning underwater… Fire in the water! Not lava or magma, dude! I thought I was watching Spongebob Squarepants. It just doesn’t feel real.

Subtly I think they are trying to promote to love your ocean and sea because as far as I can see, all the characters here love the ocean and have great things to say about it. Also, everything and anything that affects this world has got to do with the sea. You can tell or feel things just by the sea (or in it). Everything originates from the sea. And that last episode spam how beautiful and brilliant the sea is, I think that nails it. Of course not forgetting the all-important power of friendship that is the glue and key that has our friends stick around think and thin. Oh yeah. Never give up. Always chase your dreams. You know those stuffs. And because there is some legendary prophecy, it doesn’t mean doom is set to befall. Don’t let some legend dictate your future state. You determine your fate! Wow. I sound like a motivational speaker.

As said, Manaka’s cry-baby character makes Kana Hanazawa the perfect person to voice her. However Manaka isn’t really a cry-baby all the time (although she is prone to it) so you won’t really be hearing her weep every episode. Aside this, with her other various emotions, another reason why I believe Kana Hanazawa is the best person to play her. Natsuki Hanae is also good as Hikari especially when he goes into his angst and outburst mode. I don’t think I can ever get this mad and blow the top of my voice like this. He is the voice of Kal-el in Toaru Hikuushi E No Koiuta and Shinichi in Outbreak Company. Other casts include Ryota Ohsaka as Kaname (Haruto in Valvrave The Liberator), Ai Kayano as Chisaki (Inori in Guilty Crown), Kaito Ishikawa as Tsumugu (Logy in Atelier Escha & Logy), Mikako Komatsu as Minua (Marika in Mouretsu Pirates), Kaori Ishihara as Sayu (Aladdin in Magi), Kaori Nazuka as Akari (Nunally in Code Geass), Kousuke Toriumi as Uroko (Kiba in Naruto) and Junji Majima as Itaru (Ayumu in Kore Wa Zombie Desu Ka). Oh, on a trivial note, Mamiko Noto did make a cameo appearance albeit it is only for 1 episode as a clothes store clerk. Thank God I could still catch her…

The first opening theme is Lull ~Soshite Bokura Wa~ by Ray. Though it sounds like your generic anime pop, something about the tune reminds me of Ano Natsu De Matteru’s ending theme, Vidro Moyou sung by Nagi Yanagi. By the way, ironically she sings the first ending theme, Aqua Terrarium which is not bad actually. I can’t help want to sing along to this slow and calming song sometimes. But the thing that makes it a little funny is that the background vocals sometimes go “Hee hee, hee hee”. Cute or weird? I don’t know but as long as I’m enjoying the song, I guess it works. Ray sings the second opening theme, Ebb And Flow. Although it feels a bit slower this time but generally still anime pop. The second ending theme is a moderate slow pop piece, Mitsuba No Musubime by Nagi Yanagi. Although it isn’t that bad but I still prefer Aqua Terrarium.

In a nutshell, for those without patience and would prefer their shows fast and furious, this isn’t for you. But I would still recommend you Speedy Gonzales to take a look because of its awesome and breathtaking art on the landscapes as well as the satisfactory drama and romance. Since sometimes in life it is all not just about fast speed (like the internet…) and you need to slow down and take a look around you. Admire the little beauties around you. Five years can pass by you in a flash. You don’t even need to hibernate to know what I’m saying. So take some time out. Smell the flowers. Grab a bite. Fall in love. Don’t be afraid if you start to love mermaids. Because even fish people are human beings too.

Gochuumon Wa Usagi Desu Ka

December 5, 2014

Warning! Please exercise extreme caution when viewing this anime. Please be informed that there are extreme moe contents and elements. As such, viewing discretion is very much advised. Please steel your heart. Moe contents may cause your heart to tightly go kyun and beat faster than usual. Hyper ventilating may also be a side effect. Failure to do so may result in acute moe asphyxiation and may result in death from over moe. If you think you can handle and have the resolve to overcome this, then please proceed to watch Gochuumon Wa Usagi Desu Ka. If you have doubts, it is not too late to turn back.

Ah, yes. Another season, yet another moe themed anime. Yet another anime about a group of cute girls doing cute things. No real plot whatsoever. As if we need more of such overly cute girls to spice up our lives. Heh. If you are getting bored and tired of the shameless fanservice and over the top bloody violence, where else to turn to but to watch moe girls run a coffee house or a Japanese sweets shop and the interactions among each other? And if this is not your cup or tea or if you realized there is a mistake in this order of yours, then by all means you still have a chance to walk away and avoid the aforementioned symptoms.

Episode 1
Cocoa Hoto makes arrives in this new town and makes her way to Rabbit House Cafe. She gets upset when there are no rabbits! As a customer, Chino Kafuu serves her and Cocoa wants to cuddle that little cute rabbit (I thought it was a cat!) named Tippy on her head. One cuddle per coffee. She’ll take 3 coffees! So as Cocoa hugs her like the best thing in the world, she swore she could hear Tippy’s voice to stop this ‘aggression’. Just your imagination. That or Chino’s ventriloquism. Really? Cocoa explains she is supposed to start the new school term here and meet the host family called Kafuu but got lost. She’s in luck. This is the place. Chino is the granddaughter. Cocoa would like to work to help out but Chino thinks she has got her chores covered. In that case she would love to be her big sister. On second thought… Chino shows her the room to change. She feels somebody is watching her and when she opens this closet, a half naked girl pointing a gun at her! She is Rize Tedeza and a part timer. Don’t mind her brute ways since her dad is in the military and she has received harsh training. Since Cocoa is new, Rize is tasked to be her senior. Military drills… Cocoa learns Rize could memorize things at one go while Chino can identify coffee by her smell. She wishes she had a special talent but she didn’t realize she could calculate maths at lightning speed. Cocoa asks why this place is called Rabbit House. Because Tippy is their mascot. Doesn’t look anything like a rabbit. What should it be called then? Fluffy Cuddles Cafe! If they could only change that name now. Rize shows Cocoa her latte art and demonstrates a few. She then draws a super real tank image! Cocoa tries her hand but isn’t that good. Chino also demonstrates and it turns out to be Picasso-like. Cocoa thinks her art sucks. At the end of the day after Rize leaves, Cocoa shows Chino the latte art she drew representing them. She meets Chino’s father, Takahiro for the first time. He won’t be having dinner with them because Rabbit House becomes a bar at night and he is the bartender. Cocoa wants to sleep with Chino since her room feels empty and there are lots of things she wants to talk about. Since Tippy is not around to cuddle, she wants to cuddle Chino. No way! Tippy and Takahiro talk and it seems Tippy is the grandfather but somehow occupying this form. Rize has this lonely feeling but cheers up when Cocoa sends her latte art to her. Cocoa is going to look forward to their time together and be the best big sister Chino will ever have. Oh dear…

Episode 2
Cocoa is happy when people tell her she has a sister complex. If she only knew what it means… The girls will be heading to school. To Cocoa’s dismay, Chino walks in a different direction. They go to different schools, right? Cocoa meets Rize along the way. Cocoa has a bad sense of direction and keeps bumping into Rize. She in turn thinks she has walked into some sort of dimensional portal. Cocoa is attracted by stray rabbits at the park. That is where she meets Chiya Ujimatsu and become friends. Realizing they are late for school, she drags her along till Chiya had to tell her that the opening ceremony is tomorrow. So she shows her the way there so as not to get lost. When Cocoa returns and Chino asks about her school, she tries to change the subject. Please don’t ask! Chiya and Cocoa end up in the same class but the amazing thing is how Cocoa can still get lost in school. Chiya is invited to Rabbit House to make pastries with the rest. Chino gets the wrong idea there is a live culture when making yeast. And I mean, really alive. Everyone has a hard time kneading bread but after baking them, they enjoy the fruits of their labour with a variety of them with one that looks like Tippy. As thanks for inviting her, Chiya invites her to visit her Japanese sweets shop run by her family, Amausa. She introduces them to Anko, their rabbit mascot. First thing it did was chase Tippy. They think they’re in love. Can’t you hear Tippy’s scream of despair? Here is a mind boggling info: Tippy is female on the outside but male on the inside! Chiya shows them a few green tea art like how they did for latte art. Then she serves them their desserts that have names sounding like finishing techniques from a manga. Chiya suggests both their cafes can do a collaboration but Cocoa and Chino get the wrong idea they are doing towels and mugs and not food. Chino at first is afraid of getting closer to Anko but everything is fine once she puts it on her head. Chiya tries to persuade Cocoa to come work here and even live with them. She’ll prepare a room right away! As they leave, they didn’t realize Anko is still on Chino’s head. Tippy is still back in Amausa complaining about the sweets being too sweet. Too sweet!

Episode 3
The girls go to buy cups for the cafe and Cocoa’s clumsiness almost tumble the shelf! They see a photo of a rabbit in the cup and try to do the same with Tippy. Looks like a rice bowl… Also in this store is Sharo Kirima, Rize’s junior in the same school. Sharo has a liking for Rize and the rest thought she saved her from thugs. Actually there was a rabbit in her path and Rize shooed it away. Yup. Sharo has fear of rabbits. Sharo is happy when Rize gets the same cups with her. The rest believe Sharo is a rich girl but it seems she lives next door to Amausa and is childhood friends with Chiya. Her house is very modest and she doesn’t want the rest to find out about it. One day Chiya barges into Rabbit House to alert them that Sharo has taken up some job in a cafe. However there is a shady picture in it which makes it feel sleazy. Time for reconnaissance. That’s Rize’s specialty, right? So here they are outside this cafe, Fleur de Lapin and everything seems pretty normal. Sharo with rabbit ears dressed as a maid serving customers. Pretty normal. Since this is a herbal tea cafe, Sharo makes suggestions to her friends on which tea suits them. She even has herbal cookies for them. When they go back, Cocoa has this idea to add herbal tea to their menu and has gotten a few tea leaves already. But Chino points out she is holding weeds… Chiya and Sharo are stuck at Rabbit House since it suddenly started raining. Rize can send her home but since Sharo doesn’t want her to know the state of her house, Chiya offers to do it but they didn’t get far. Looks like everyone will be staying here for the night. A blessing in disguise? Cocoa tries out Chino’s school uniform. Once Sharo and Chiya finish their bath, they see Rize in Chino’s school uniform (she lost in some game). Sharo cannot stop fawning over her. Chiya suggests it’s that time. No, not to tell about your secret crush but ghost stories! Chino tries to scare them about some small, fluffy, white apparition with gleaming eyes but the rest could guess she’s referring to Tippy. Next is Chiya. With the power cut off and a candle light to enhance the mood, her story begins about some killer rabbit. Everyone who is close to it got murdered one after another. The end. Might not sound much but enough to scare them! Deep into the night, Sharo needs to go to the toilet. She is still scared from hearing Chiya’s story and freaks out when she bumps into something. It is Rize. She got ‘stuck’ and couldn’t move once her candle burnt out. This might be a blessing for Sharo because the lightning flashes and they cuddle closely to each other. Next morning is all bright and clear. They see Cocoa happily sleeping on the floor in an awkward position.

Episode 4
Cocoa and Chino discuss about being fussy about certain foods. Cocoa mentions Chino can’t grow tall since Tippy is always on her head. She really believes it. Chino discusses about this with her friends and it seems jumping and banana may do the trick. On the way home, she tries hopping on red tiles only. She got distracted by a rabbit and hit a lamppost. Chiya sees this and thinks the heat must have gotten to her. At the supermarket, Chino sees Sharo who is waiting for some sale. They see something they want but jump as they might, they can’t reach. Rize is here to save the day. Back at Rabbit House, Cocoa and Chino try to overcome their detested food. Not doing so well… Rize’s training of shouting out loud won’t help either. So the only way is to take the slow path of eat and sleep well. At first Cocoa doesn’t mind if she outgrows her but since Chino won’t cuddle her, she panics and hopes she won’t grow and stay small! Till Chiya texts Cocoa about the heat getting to her that she changes her mind. Get lots of nutrition and sleep, no? Chino is doing some coffee fortune telling so Cocoa tries out. Tippy reads her fortune. Seems like bad luck in the form of water and polka dots. Next day, Cocoa tells Chiya about this. During lunch, Anko drops into her lunch (crows have a habit of picking him up). Then when she leaves the toilet, Chiya realizes her skirt was hooked up revealing her polka dot panties all this while. On the way back home, a woman accidentally splashes water on her. They visit Sharo’s cafe and she is extremely afraid of Anko. The sweet doesn’t taste well for Cocoa. Chiya tries to read Sharo’s fortune. But since it is about unrequited love, she gets mad and throws the change. It hit Cocoa’s face. When she returns to Rabbit House, she asks if the prediction has turned out true. From what she explains, the rest doesn’t want her to take anymore predictions. The friends go to the library to study. To Sharo’s surprise, Chiya seeks Cocoa’s help since she is good in maths and physics. Though she sucks in the rest. Chino won’t rely on Cocoa so she has Sharo teach her. They both note how they would like to be each other’s sister and this sends alarming signals to Cocoa. They ask which school Chino wants to go and also their dream. Cocoa’s dream: Your neighbourhood international barista lawyer! Since Sharo wonders if she had went to Chiya’s school instead of Rize, Chiya teases her that they may not be in the same class. But she should know it better because despite they go to different schools, they still hang out together. Cocoa knows the book that Chino is looking for. She can’t remember the title but remembers the contents clearly. She feels like a big sister finding her book. However… This isn’t it. Crime and Punishment?

Episode 5
Cocoa wants to go practice volleyball but gets disappointed when Chino and Rize didn’t stop her. On the other hand, Chino seeks Rize’s help to coach her badminton. Hope she doesn’t regret her military drills… They then see Cocoa and Chiya knocked out at the park. Seemed they knocked each other out in volleyball practice. So as they practice, Cocoa seems to always get hit by Chiya’s serve. Cocoa then switches place with Rize. Sharo sees them and is invited to join in. She is being given caffeine to be more active. Is that like doping? Cocoa and Sharo try to impress Chino and Rize respectively but their efforts go unnoticed. During Chino’s badminton game, she is a point from victory when she decides to use the secret technique she learnt from Rize. Patriot Serve! She lost because it hit the net and the recoil sent her bouncing back. One day Rize suddenly barges in to inform she is going to change shifts and work for a different cafe! No, she is not tired or them or have become some corporate spy. While practising her Patriot Serve, she accidentally broke her father’s wine collection (too much power, I guess). So for Father’s Day she wants to earn extra cash and buy the wine to make up for it. First she works at Amausa. Chiya fools around with the way she is to dress as well as suggesting putting military theme into her menu. Next day, Rize works at Fleur de Lapin as she tries to practice saying welcome to customers but feels embarrassed. She also asks Sharo why she needs to work so she had to lie to maintain her rich girl perception of her. As Rize alternates between the cafes, Cocoa and Chino think of making Takahiro a handmade gift. Cocoa tries to sew a necktie but sucks. Chino does it a lot better. When finished, Chino mentions that her dad only wears bowties… Well, they’ve worked so hard so Cocoa is sure he’ll be happy with anything. That doesn’t answer her question that if he will have the opportunity to wear it. On Rize’s last day at Fleur de Lapin, Sharo wonders if she would continue working here. Rize won’t since this cafe’s personality doesn’t suit her. Sharo is sad but cheers up when Rize invites her to go pick a wine. But it seems Rize didn’t get to buy a wine but something else. She notes that he already replaced it. Takahiro gave it to him and Tippy is mad he gave away the wine he had been saving.

Episode 6
On their day off, Cocoa and Chino go to town. Along the way they see Rize facing a dilemma in picking her clothes at the store and don’t want to disturb her. At the park, they see Sharo manning a crepe store. Cocoa offers her to take a bite. Tempting? Before she could, Anko lands splat on it! That must be traumatic for Sharo. Chino’s friends, Megumi “Megu” Natsu and Maya Jouga happen to pass by and as they chat, Cocoa got distracted chasing a bunny and this leads her to a wandering novelist, Aoyama Blue Mountain (her pen name) who is trying to find inspiration as her recent novel has just been adapted into a movie. After a short chat, Chino reunites with Cocoa and notes speaking to strangers doesn’t come natural to her. If her friends hadn’t taken the initiative to approach her, they would never have become friends. On the way back, they see Rize in a different clothing and hairstyle. Though, Rize manages to pass it off she is a different person. Since Chino notes she was able to talk to this ‘stranger’ so freely, she thinks it is all thanks to Cocoa. When Cocoa is late to her shift and couldn’t find her uniform, she sees Megu in it and thinks she has been fired! Maya is in Rize’s outfit. Seems they’re here to help. Cocoa tries to recruit them to be her little sisters! Rize comes looking for her uniform and also her ‘trusty companions’. Maya pulls out the gun and combat knife! Is this what she is looking for? Oh God. Why does she keep such dangerous weapons in her clothes?! Cocoa and Rize become their customers for today and as they get along well, Chino couldn’t help feel this pain in her heart. So she visits Amausa and talks to Chiya who thinks she is a little jealous. Chino feels her friends may have forgotten all about her. In that case, Chiya offers to join her. Don’t make it more confusing. Aoyama is in the next table and mentions she was a regular at Rabbit House during her school days but doesn’t have the courage to go back there recently and understands how she feels. She believes those feelings is her heat telling her that she loves those people even more than she thinks. Sharo barges in panicking because she got word that Rize has got a ‘little sister’… When Chino returns, seeing Cocoa and Rize thinking about her makes her feel better. At school, her friends are worried about Chino since she looks down recently. But she assures them it has already blown over. When Cocoa is watching the sunset with Tippy, Aoyama is there too. Cocoa says she has read her book. Aoyama reveals she modelled the main character after someone she knew: The owner of a cafe she once frequented. When business once wasn’t doing well, he grumbled and wished to turn into a rabbit, which is the inspiration of that story. She wants to tell him her story was popular enough to become a movie but kept putting it off because she was busy.

Episode 7
Rize could guess Chino is in a bad mood today but Cocoa thinks that is how she always treats her! It seems Chino was taking her time completing a jigsaw puzzle. When she left for toilet and returned, Cocoa completed it. What more, a missing piece. Cocoa felt so guilty that she rushed out to buy another jigsaw puzzle. 8000 pieces! I guess this calls for help. The rest arrive to put the pieces together, each doing their respective portion. Once it is near completion, Rize asks the all important question that nobody noticed: How do they pick this up since they didn’t put anything under it? Making the puzzle too long can cause you to lose motivation so Cocoa and Chino go make some pancakes. Just when they are about to reconcile, Cocoa flipped the pancake onto Chino’s face! Looks like reconciliation will be slightly delayed. While they chat, there is another chain puzzle that Chino hopes to complete one day. Sharo accidentally slams the bed and pops Tippy up. This reveals the missing piece. Everything should have come to a good end till Cocoa accidentally completes the chain puzzle… Next day in school, Cocoa notices it is Chiya’s turn to be down. She goes to check on her but sees Sharo sitting outside. They had some fight this morning and Sharo rushed off to school. She felt sorry for it but finds it hard to face her now. She is afraid Anko might target her if she enters. Cocoa has the perfect solution. Put a paper bag over Sharo’s head and walk in with a gun borrowed from Rize! Looks like a robbery! The moment Sharo takes off her bag, Anko chases her. Eventually they both made up. (Chiya found Sharo’s panties and tried to tell her – She might have chased her waving that all the way to school). Sharo is distributing flyers for Fleur de Lapin. A rabbit sits on her flyer stack so she had to beg for it to move! Luckily Rize is here to help. She is also distributing flyers for Rabbit House but accidentally advertises for Fleur de Lapin. Chino realizes spelling mistakes on the flyer. Rabbit Horse? And what’s with this “Welcome Come On”? Cocoa is embarrassed by her mistake as they rush to recall the flyers. They just need to correct the rest when the wind blows it away. Yeah. Picking every piece up. Rize is scared of bugs but not Sharo. Then here comes a rabbit at her feet so Cocoa lets her hold a small one in her hands as practice. She’s coping well for now… The girls are at Chiya’s house to give their share of bread and want to know where Sharo lives so they can give hers. Here she comes out next door remembering about dinner. Suddenly it’s like their reality came crashing down although they apologize for jumping to conclusions that she is a rich girl. Cocoa is still the blur one. She is still wondering where her house is! Rize tells her embarrassing secret to her in exchange for knowing this (she loves putting miniature guns on her rabbit dolls). The finished jigsaw puzzle becomes a framed picture at Rabbit House.

Episode 8
Sharo is acting like a drunk because she was down and Chiya brought her to different coffee cafes. Later the friends visit an indoor pool. Cocoa has flippers for Chino? Rize ties up Chino’s hair and does the same for Chiya. She got so flustered about the rest praising her skills that she decorated it into something extravagant. I find it odd that Rize doesn’t know how to swim despite having military training. With Cocoa and Sharo teaching her, Chino and Chiya play chess. The trio start off with holding their breath underwater and since Cocoa looks like she has drowned, this startles the rest. So technically she won, right? Because the chess wager if Chino loses, Cocoa will have to call Cocoa her big sister (otherwise Chiya will see what happens when Tippy gets soaked), Cocoa needs to go watch the match closely to avoid losing her status. This leaves Sharo alone with Rize. She has a nice time teaching her. So good that her leg got cramped. Chino and Chiya cannot concentrate since Cocoa and Tippy are being noisy. They are at stake, you know? At the end of the day, Rize believes Chino has won because Cocoa still has the right to refer to herself as a big sister. Tippy got ‘harassed’ by other kids… One rainy day, Chino’s friends think Chino has this sleepy face. She assures she puts on a different face during work so they believe it is Tippy on her head and discuss what else to put on her head. Since the friends are going to watch a movie and it is raining, some of them dash out in the rain. Cocoa trips… During the movie, Cocoa and Chino try to hold in their tears so as not to show each other in fear they will be teased. Rize is awed by the cinema (it’s her first time), Chiya taking notes for just about anything from the movie to improve her menu (must be those lines) while Sharo has a hard time trying to quiet her growling stomach. Meanwhile Aoyama finally decides to visit Rabbit House. Instead of seeing the old master, her eyes made contact with Takahiro and she felt guilty and runs away. After the movie, Chino feels sleepy and Cocoa offers to carry her back. Sharo and Chiya will support her and it makes it look like a kibasen. Back at Rabbit House, Cocoa feels influenced by the movie and wants to become a barista. What happened to becoming a baker and a lawyer? Because of that, Cocoa could feel Chino being angry as the latter serves several cups of coffee. If she is serious in becoming a barista, she should prove she at least know her blends.

Episode 9
When Tippy was still an old man, he lamented he worked so hard and yet his business is failing. He wished he would be like his pet rabbit. Young Cocoa heard it and thought it was his order so she casted a ‘magic spell’ for him to turn into a rabbit one day. Rize needs some time off work since she’ll be in a drama play. But it’s not going to be some dog like Cocoa thought but an elegant lady. Does she know how to be elegant? Cocoa suggests seeking Chiya’s advice and right away Rize has a complete makeover. Aoyama is also at Amausa to find inspiration for her novel. Subsequently Sharo is roped in to teach the finer points of being a lady but she gets freaked out upon her arrival as the girls were wearing Phantom of the Opera masks. I don’t know how that would help but it didn’t. Aoyama draws inspiration from Sharo and uses their past meetings as inspiration. Cocoa and Chino panic when they start thinking that Rize may quit this job if she really gets into acting. Because for Cocoa, the cafe will lose a bodyguard and Cocoa can’t defend it herself! In the end when Rize started to get the hang of being elegant, her role was rewritten to suit her personality. She hopes to use what she learnt in another play but Cocoa and Chino get the wrong idea and try to stop her. One day, a paper airplane from Aoyama hits Chino. Seems she has given up being a novelist. Cocoa once again couldn’t find her uniform and when she sees Aoyama in it, she thinks she is fired for good this time! So Chino hires Aoyama for the time being. Aoyama hopes to meet the old master but was told he already passed away. Funny, she thought she heard his voice the other day. Cocoa thinks she has missed him so much and started hearing things and gives Tippy to console herself. She felt a sense of nostalgia touching him. But she still feels sad that he is already gone and will never get his thoughts on her writing again. Aoyama also opens a counselling corner in the cafe and since none came, Chiya brings the first one: Sharo. This girl sure has lots of problems. Once she drinks Rize’s coffee, she becomes like a sad drunk, pouring out her money and rabbit problems. Aoyama also receives letters asking for advice. Turns out to be Chino and Cocoa who could have just talked it out with each other. The girls find out that she lost her drive for writing when she lost the fountain pen the old master gave her. She lost it on the first day she met Cocoa. They go find it at the park but Cocoa got distracted chasing rabbits. It is Tippy who finds the pen so Chino talks to him that he should give it to Aoyama. Finally he talks to her and she gets freaked out a stuffed doll is talking. But she brought the wrong one when she was showing Chino and Cocoa. Soon she gets her writing rhythm back and even hints her old master is always watching them. Perhaps in the form of a rabbit and borrowing Tippy’s body? This freaks out Rize and Cocoa.

Episode 10
Cocoa will be away to stay over at Chiya’s place since they will be studying together. So is it going to get a lot quieter at Rabbit House? Not quite. Megu and Maya are called to fill in Cocoa’s shoes. They are also here for a sleepover. I suppose Chino is starting to miss Cocoa so she unknowingly makes lots of coffee. Megu and Maya have this telepathic link and know what the other thinks. Rize tries it out but they could never guess her military codes. Cocoa is having a blast working at Amausa. Aoyama is there too and thought Anko was talking to her but it turns out to be Cocoa reading aloud a line from her novel. When the duo start studying, Sharo is also roped in. Why do they need her? In case they get distracted, she is supposed to start whacking them with a harisen. Seriously. Rize and Chino take Megu and Maya to the indoor pool. Chino worries about being a good host and talks to Tippy. She finds it weird he sounds different that’s because Aoyama is adlibbing him. They start playing water pistols. Aoyama uses Tippy as hostage! But Rize like a true military girl shoots right at all her targets. Well what do you know? Tippy shrinks when he is soaked! Because Cocoa and Sharo have an argument over some math equation, Cocoa starts counting prime numbers as a challenge but after reaching some 9000th number, she gets distracted by a photo album. Sharo is about to disclose something embarrassing about Chiya’s past but was made to shut up. She thinks she might have finally found something to turn the tables on her after always being embarrassed by her. When Chino and co return back to Rabbit House, she sends a mail to Chiya, a picture of soaked Tippy. Cocoa thought Chino is lonely but is disheartened to see her fun face. Well, maybe now she feels lonely. Cocoa calls her and they chat a while before retiring to bed. Sharo dreams that she only has 52 Yen. That’s not enough to buy bread! Chino, Megu and Maya thought they could surprise Rize when she visits as a customer by turning this into a little sister cafe. But she turns into a military drill instructor and tells them to fall in! Only siscon girls like Cocoa would have totally loved it. Too bad…

Episode 11
The girls are shopping at the Christmas market for decorative ornaments. Because Sharo is busy on that day, the rest suggests holding a Christmas party for her after that. Chino and Cocoa said that in sync. Cocoa is so pleased but not Chino. Since Cocoa is too close to Chino, it makes Chiya note that they look like real sisters. Cocoa is extremely pleased. But not Chino. Cocoa wants to leave a present for Chino and seeks Rize’s advice on what she likes. A music box with animals would be nice. Everyone works hard till Christmas. Chiya couldn’t stop thinking of what performance to give. Balancing Anko on her umbrella? The party is to be held at Rabbit House so everyone arrives including Megu and Maya. Sharo is the last to arrive and is shocked to see everyone working. The place is crowded and they’re helping out. Just when she got time off and everybody is working their ass off… Not to be let down she suddenly turns into a super waitress. Her serving skills become top notch and could put the rest to shame. She could even be harsher than Rize. Chino notices they’re out of butter so Chiya tries to shake the fresh cream in a bottle. I don’t think it’s working. Megu has trouble counting at the register but Cocoa saves the day with her fast calculation. After a hard day’s work, it is time for their deserved party as Chino summons her courage to call a toast. They exchange presents. Aoyama who is helping Takahiro out in the bar thought she heard her old master’s voice and believes tonight is another night of miracles. That night when Chino is asleep, Cocoa sneaks in to plant her present hoping she would think it was from Santa. Takahiro also got the same idea. Next morning, Chino wakes up to find presents at her bed. Thankfully that is not Cocoa as the present as she merely slept by the bed side. Of course she knows who the presents are from. But it is Cocoa that is shocked to find presents in her bed and thinks it is from Santa.

Episode 12
Chino couldn’t understand why Cocoa was sleeping in her room. Cocoa remembers Chino falling asleep and didn’t let go of her sleeve. Maybe she smelled like bread? Talking about scents with their friends, Cocoa thinks Chiya would smell like traditional Japanese austerity, Sharo like herbs and Rize like military gun powder. It’s okay, you don’t have to sniff yourself because it’s just a joke. The quartet take their time hanging out in the snow laden town. Chino wonders why they are taking so long and she hints that she their scent puts her at ease. Cocoa and co realize they are late and rushes back. Megu and Maya are doing an assignment so they interview Cocoa about working here. Since she isn’t the appropriate person, Chino channels them to Tippy who starts ranting with passion what it means. They think it’s Chino talking. Then they interview Takahiro but again Tippy starts disagreeing but the girls think Chino is the one disapproving. Next they interview Chiya before heading over to Sharo (more like she got teased and tricked to do some pose). Aoyama happen to be there to so the duo don’t mind interviewing her but they observe her using her excuse to hang out in such shops to peep employees without looking suspicious. So that’s why… The duo want to hang out more but Cocoa warns they’ll be late. But they know her weakness… Call Cocoa their big sister! That takes care of everything. One day, Cocoa gets fever so is made to stay in bed. The friends visit but what is this wearing a garlic wreath is supposed to help cure the illness? I thought that was for vampires? Since her fever is not going down, her friends leave to let her rest. Meanwhile, Sharo is also down with the same symptoms. Chiya really wants her to wear the garlic wreath… Chino thought Cocoa is in pain but upon closer hearing her mumbling, seems she is dreaming about food. Tippy realizes they are out of medicine. All shops are closed at this hour and she doesn’t want to bother her dad manning the bar. The only way is to head to Chiya’s place to get some. It’s dangerous but she’ll do it. Aoyama goes in to give Cocoa a warm drink but since she starts to feel cold herself, she drinks it herself! That is warm wine?! Feeling dizzy, isn’t she? When Chino returns, she learns Cocoa was dreaming she got hurt in her dream. She assures she is tougher than that. Next day we have good news and bad news. Good news: Chino didn’t catch her cold. Bad news: Now she has mumps! Cocoa will be her big sister and take care of her. Oh dear. When they are well again, Chino tries to wake up Cocoa to open the shop. However she is so sound asleep. She whispers in her ear by calling her ‘big sister’ and instantly she wakes up and they bump into each other’s heads. Care to repeat that again, please?

Is The Order A Loli? Eat In Or Take Away?
I survived… The ending may not be nothing much just like the rest of the episodes that feel each could stand alone as some filler, but that is what to be expected in such animes with no plot and the only motivation is to see cute moe girls interact and bond with each other. Hardly exciting for those hoping to something more. Therefore, despite the lack of any surprises and plot twists (what?), this show is still pretty decent thanks to the moe factor that captures your attention. Unless of course you aren’t really into this kind of stuffs or a heartless cold bastard who’d rather see rippling masculine muscles and crush rabbits with your hands. But other than that, for those who manage to get through this anime without ending up with any serious moe after effect injuries, a big congratulations and a pat on your back. Now you can truly say you have witnessed the extreme moe and SURVIVED!

Thanks to the quirkiness of the characters, the comedic effects are spontaneous and in the sense that it doesn’t make you bored like certain animes of the same genre. Sometimes you’ll find yourself bursting into short fits of laughter at their quirkiness or feel that warm fuzzy feeling in your heart because the things they just are just oh-so-cute from the way they speak and act. This is if you are into this kind of genre anyway. Otherwise you would be putting up that long face and wondering what the hell are all these adorable motifs that would send a sharp shiver down your spine. You must be a heartless cold bastard who’d rather see rippling masculine muscles and crush rabbits with your… Oh, I have already said that.

The characters are the biggest drive and connecting factor that makes this work. They are lovable since each comes with their own quirky habits. As usual we have a quirky bunch with Cocoa being your typical lively and energetic girl. Sometimes airhead. A bit of a sister complex. Rize is a bit different because not many moe animes would have a girl with a military background. In a way it makes her unique since she doesn’t think like your normal and typical girl. Because military background people tend to resort to violence, right? Thankfully she doesn’t although lots of her suggestions and thinking have this military influence. But oddly, she looks more cute than menacing despite her harsh military training. Then you have Chino who doesn’t talk much and has that monotonous look on her face. I guess it is ironic for the girl who doesn’t talk much as compared to the rest, she seems the most mature for her age. And I believe she is the youngest among the quintet. Maybe having Tippy sit on her head somewhat transfers the wisdom of her grandpa into her brain. I know it’s crazy but having a grandpa reincarnated as your pet rabbit is even crazier. She might not be good interacting with strangers but at least she gets along fine with the friends she knows. In time, she yearns for their company. Okay, maybe except for the occasional bugging from Cocoa to be her sister.

Equally an airhead like Cocoa is Chiya. But her mind is more focused on improving her store and doesn’t hesitate to take down ideas that she thinks would be useful. Sharo is the most amusing among the quintet since she has a ‘multitude of emotions’. She flusters a lot and feels like the one who is usually picked on because we all love to see girls who react like that, right? I thought she would have built up some immunity after always embarrassing herself in such moments. Unless you want to see another side of her, please don’t give her coffee because this hypes her up or turns her into a drunk. Sharo’s admiration for Rize can border that of being yuri but thankfully you won’t see that sort of thing here. Because moe is the ultimate element that rules. And it’s odd too to find that there are people who have phobia to rabbits. How can you fear such cuddly cute creatures? Yup. Perhaps the same reasons why I don’t find bugs cute like some people do. So if you really have fear of rabbits, you shouldn’t be watching this show since there are some episodes that spam bunnies. It’s like they run around freely in this town. Megu and Maya are helpful friends and Cocoa would love to recruit them into her sister harem while Aoyama feels like the biggest airhead, hopping from one café to café while trying to find inspiration for her novel. But the way she bums around and ‘stalks’ (observes as she calls it) our girls, I think she’ll hardly find inspiration for anything.

Tippy is obviously the mascot of the series. So cute that he doesn’t even look like your typical rabbit. Reminds me of Tamayura’s Momoneko but that cat is recognizable as a feline despite looking like a candy floss. If they had not clarify Tippy is a rabbit, I would have thought that was a cat or some sort of Pokemon creature. Seriously. The only odd part is how Chino’s grandpa ended up as part of Tippy. It could be that ‘magical’ moment when young Cocoa casted her ‘spell’ on him. Did he really want to become a rabbit? Oddly he can speak normally instead of just communicating telepathically to Chino and Takahiro. However since other people don’t really believe animals talk, they easily jump to conclusions that Chino is a ventriloquist or is her other true character. But Tippy’s mouth moves when talks, right? In denial? I think it is easier on their sanity that way. Besides, what kind of sounds do rabbits make? What does the rabbit say? Then there is Anko who is the secondary mascot. Because of his face that never moves, it makes him look like an animated Easter bunny chocolate. Really.

Obvious as it is, the art and drawing of the girls are drawn to a moe extent. Cutely cute. Which is something quite similar to what you see in shows like Kin-iro Mosaic but double the dose of moe-ness. The character designs may look simple and clean (in a cute way of course) but sometimes you don’t really need all those fancy and detailed looks to make it work. The background and sceneries are also well done especially with the old European setting of the town. Not to mention that they also put in quite some decent detail in the pattern designs of the cups and plates. Oh, the snow effects also look gorgeous. White Fox studio produces this anime and they did works like Hataraku Maou-sama and Super Sonico The Animation. Can’t get enough of the moe girls? At the end of each episode, there are further cute sketches and illustrations of the characters. I am not sure if they are by various people since there are no credits to say if the illustrations are from whom.

Although not many (you can’t count them with your fingers), I never expect that there would be a little fanservice in this anime. But the fanservice here is not over the top and nothing pretty fancy such as Rize’s debut we see her in her plaid design underwear (probably to attract casual viewers to stay and watch this anime that that they will otherwise find boring and dropping the series entirely), Cocoa changing and that unashamed indoor pool episode. Because of the extreme moe in just about everything, you’d probably pass the fanservice stuffs and wouldn’t think about it despite such scenes being pretty obvious. Yeah. Numbed by the moe factor.

I’m starting to form a stereotype on Ayane Sakura’s voice. As Cocoa, although her character isn’t as bratty as her other bratty characters (think Suzuka from Tokyo Ravens and Eno from Love Lab), she still has that unmistaken bratty voice in her character. She’s more like Non Non Biyori’s Natsumi. Satomi Satou’s dreamy voice makes her suitable as Chiya. Just think of her as a more moe version of Fairy Tail’s Wendy. Other casts include Inori Minase as Chino (Suzune in Love Lab), Risa Taneda as Rize (Mirai in Kyoukai No Kanata), Maaya Uchida as Sharo (Rikka in Chuunibyou Demo Koi Ga Shitai), Saori Hayami as Aoyama (Yui in Kamigami No Asobi), Motomu Kiyokawa as Tippy (Fuyutsuki in Neon Genesis Evangelion), Sho Hayami as Takahiro (Tenzen in Basilisk), Rie Murakawa as Megu (Escha in Atelier Escha & Logy) and Sora Tokui as Maya (Nero in Tantei Opera Milky Holmes).

The opening theme itself is already filled with lots of moe and with lyrics like “pyon-pyon”, it gives you a taste of the moe-ness that is about to come. The lively song is called Daydream Café by Petite Rabbit’s which is actually the voices of the main quintet. The ending theme is Poppin Jump by Chimame-tai, basically the voices behind Chino, Maya and Megu (add the first syllables to get Chimame, geddit?). As usual, it has that fun bouncy feel to it like all animes of this genre should. Hearing it sometimes wants to make you shuffle your feet. Not forgetting its cute lyrics like “ra-ta-ta” too. Nichijou Decoration by Petite Rabbit’s is the special ending theme for the final episode and it sounds like a befitting moderate pop piece to end the series. I think at this point hardcore moe lovers would find goodbye to be the hardest word… Good things have to end one day… Even lolis grow up one day too! Haha! Fear that all you lolicons!

This anime and the genre itself is not for everyone. Literally, not going to be anyone’s cup of tea (or coffee). Having cute girls doing cute things with much ado about nothing is the same as watching Barney and Friends or Sesame Street. Only replace all puppet monsters with cute girls. If you want something that warms your heart and keep you smiling at the end of the day, try out this series. Provided if you have not succumbed to death by extreme moe asphyxiation or turned into a lolicon. Just remember to take your coffee simple without all that complicated terms that would take a rocket scientist to decipher. You don’t need all that complicated stuff to enjoy something simple, don’t you?