I never liked or got into the game of baseball. Even with my stints with Princess Nine and Taishou Yakyuu Musume many years ago, here I am watching Hachigatsu No Cinderella Nine. Was it a slow anime season for me? Need to feel up my seasonal quota of animes to watch that I had to pick this? And yeah, I guess it’s because they got a team of cute girls as the main characters, huh? Must be it. Definitely. Oddly in that same season this anime premiered, we have another 2 established and popular baseball themed animes airing in the same season, Diamond No Ace: Act II and Mix: Meisei Story. Is it baseball season? But I guess you can tell what kind of people we are depending on which of these 3 baseball themed animes we watch. By saying all that, I already can tell before I start watching this one, the outcome and sentiments of this all-female baseball anime is going to be. Let’s play ball!

Episode 1
A new school term has started at Satogahama High School. Clubs are putting up demonstrations for potential newbies to join. Until Tsubasa Arihara does the unthinkable by going on stage and boldly seeks for new recruits for a baseball club. What’s wrong with that? The school doesn’t officially have one. Later, she apologizes the student council president, Shiho Noumi over this. Although her friend, Tomoe Kawakita also does the same since it was her idea that put her up to this. But don’t fret. There’s still hope. Teacher Momoko Kakehashi allows them to start off as an association till they have enough members. With the duo off to recruit members, in no time we can tell that Yuuki Nozaki and Akane Ukita who are somewhat interested but shy in wanting to join eventually tries it out. The quartet practise by the river bank. Don’t worry if Yuuki and Akane don’t have any baseball experience. Tsubasa and Tomoe have plenty. After a few catching practises, time for a little character drama as Akane mentions she is interested in playing baseball because of an old friend but she is no good in sports. However there were no girl baseball clubs she could try out. Likewise, Yuuki was from the basketball club and had this trauma of holding her teammates back. Hence she is somewhat afraid to try another club. Tsubasa manages to find a few other kids to join in and play some decent mini baseball game. Safe to say, it sparked their interest and more importantly self-confidence in the game. When they try to find the duo to officially join, they hear an argument coming from the student council room. It seems they are prohibited to practice in school.

Episode 2
The logic is that the school has no proper baseball facilities and letting them practice means they might break other stuffs and be a danger to others. They get stubborn and almost got into trouble. Thankfully nothing was broken. Before finding a place to play, they are at the baseball store to get some proper gear. Yeah, those gloves are really costly. Fellow classmate, Waka Suzuki is also here. The rest jump the gun thinking she is interested to join them! Desperate, huh? She’s just here to accompany her brother who plays baseball for his university. Wow. Real life celebrity! Thanks to that, Waka has a lot of knowledge on baseball despite not playing the game. This doesn’t stop the quartet to bug her for tips. Kakehashi has found a field for them to practice. Some kind owner decides to lend them instead of seeing it go to waste. Oh well, time to clean up this abandoned field first. You can tell their passion is as equal as baseball so cleaning up is such fun! Waka watches the girls play and seeing Akane play reminds of herself so much. Tsubasa invites her to play but she gives excuses she can’t. Flashback shows Waka’s talent was that she was able to pick out and spot oddities and this made her a valuable asset. As other people praised her, she began picking up baseball tactics and data. Thus she thinks she is better at this rather than playing. But you know what? Her brother knows she wants to play and lends her his glove. And so Waka joins in the play and realizes, hey, this is fun too! Yeah, her face might not show it but I believe her heart is saying something like that. And with Akane giving all she’s got and the rest having fun, safe to say that she’s going to join the club. And what luck, Kakehashi also decides to become their advisor as she doesn’t mind advising 2 clubs at once.

Episode 3
Things are getting better as they even have their own clubroom. Now to apply for funding… As they continue practising, this weird cheerleading girl, Yoshimi Iwaki starts cheering on them. She heard about their efforts and decides to cheer for them all the way. Heck, she even got their upcoming games? What games? They don’t even have enough members! Hence they would like her to help out with the recruitment. And quickly enough, she pulls in Aoi Asada. She is considered the best gambler in school and never lost. Uhm, is that legal? Well, as long as she sticks to rock-scissors-paper gambling! Yeah, Yoshimi has never won against her! And Aoi might feel Tsubasa is something special because she got a draw! With Aoi joining in, she also drags Yoshimi to join. Yay! More members. Later, Waka notices Ayaka Nakano has been stalking them. The only newspaper club member is trying to make her big scoop and thinks their club will be it since there aren’t many high school girls baseball clubs throughout the nation. Tsubasa believes this can also help in their recruitment. Then they hit the batting centre. Some are natural and some might need a little more practice. Maybe much more. Then they notice this sleek beauty coming in to bat. Ryou Shinonome looks like she is a pro! Well, I thought Tsubasa would go over to recruit her but she goes to bat alongside her. Both are amazing. However both know each other but Ryou isn’t impressed with Tsubasa and thinks she is just play pretending. Later the rest discover that the duo faced off in last year’s All Japan Senior Little League Championship’s semi-finals on opposing teams. Tsubasa’s side went on to win the title. Tsubasa is surprised she came to this school and before she could recruit her, Ryou declines her. She doesn’t want to waste time with a school club and intends to join a real club team. Because Tsubasa is having fun, Ryou thinks she is not taking the game seriously.

Episode 4
Flashback to that semi-final, Tsubasa’s team was losing at first. Nothing says motivation like Tsubasa telling her teammates to just enjoy the game. And the irony is that when they do that, they started winning and now Ryou’s team was the one feeling the pressure. Is it me or is Tsubasa and Ryou the only girls in their team? In the end, Tsubasa’s team came back for a win and the rest is history. However after that historic win, Tsubasa wasn’t too happy. For the next 6 months she didn’t play baseball as she quit the team. Not sure what their different goal was. Was Tsubasa just wanting to have fun while the guys were like we need to aim higher and win the world cup? She could have quit baseball for good had not Tomoe talked her out of it and rekindled her love for the game. And so here we are now. She’s trying to create a team so they can have fun playing baseball together. After hearing this nice story, Ayaka decides to join. Gee, that was easy. Is this the dream and drama she is looking for? Of course you’d think she would be going to recruit Ryou but nope. She’s just asking when her try out for the club team is. Because on that day, Tsubasa and the girls come to watch and cheer on Ryou. So we see the hopefuls against the regulars. Again, is Ryou the only girl in this try out? Because the newbies are like taking it easy, this pisses off Ryou as she snaps for them to get serious. Hey girl. Why so serious? If that wasn’t awkward enough, Tsubasa starts cheering Ryou’s name. She won’t stop because she doesn’t want her to give up baseball like she did. Seeing her try her best amazes her so that’s why she wants to see her keep playing her style of baseball. That’s the clincher for everybody to join in the chant. And now we can see everyone giving it all and playing better. In the aftermath as our baseball girls practice, Ryou marches in and lectures them on how to properly swing, bat, posture and everything. Who made her coach? Then they bug her for the try out result. She failed. Why everyone so surprised? But Ryou has no regrets because she gave her all. So I guess change of heart for Ryou? Yup. Now we have a complete all-girl baseball club! Even if you have dreams, you need to start from somewhere even if it is the most unlikely and unwanted of places.

Episode 5
Finally! They pull out the last weed from their field! Hooray! Accomplishment! Now they can practice for real. Better still. They want to play their first game. After setting up positions for each of them, they suddenly realize the vital thing they’ve been missing: Uniform! Unfortunately they cost a bomb and they have used up their funds on practice balls. Also, Kakehashi has managed to secure a team who will play them. It’s just a school in the next area, Seijo High School. And in 2 weeks, our Satogahama has their uniform design and even their uniforms ready! Power of parent sponsor… The match day is here. Sayaka Jinguji is the captain of Seijo’s baseball team. We see both side being noobs, clumsily handling the ball and striking out many times. So when Satogahama gets their first run and points, they think they could really win this. Might as well stay positive. And then the pace starts to change when Sayaka starts using some slider throw thingy. When Seijo starts scoring and leading, don’t tell me you girls are starting to get demoralized. And then this truth from Ryou. She realizes that Seijo has been fielding their players in positions they aren’t used to and now that they are switching them to their original roles, they’re going to have a hard time. Because they have a goal and different mind set, Satogahama have already lost before the game started. Well, you didn’t have to make it sound that bad, right? In the end Seijo thumped Satogahama. 12-1. Our girls so demoralized that they didn’t show up for practice? Self blame game begins. Like Akane blaming herself for making too many mistakes and especially Tsubasa blaming herself for trying to hype up everyone for their first game. Eventually everybody shows up. Then they start screaming out their mistakes (hope this isn’t going to be some sort of tradition) and you know they will move forward and get better. That’s how you grow, right? A group cheer to top it off.

Episode 6
Exam season is here so naturally Tsubasa wants to hold off practice until it’s over. But Tomoe can’t wait that long. She feels the need to get better now and hence when she stumbles upon Sayaka’s secret practice place behind the shrine, Tomoe pleads to be trained by her. She can’t ask Tsubasa since she can’t be strict with her. With Tomoe taking secret practices, you bet the rest is going to smell something fishy as Tomoe herself is starting to act a little strange. And then Yoshimi and Aoi spot this ‘unholy alliance’ and report to Tsubasa. Faster than the speed of light, Tsubasa comes down to the ground and is shocked to see this ‘unholy alliance’. The drama ramps up with Tsubasa confronting Tomoe and yelling she told her she would have practised with her once the exams are over. Tomoe yells back about Tsubasa unable to be strict with her. Is it because they’re best friends? In that case, she quits being her friend! Oh my. Oh dear. Hey, at least she didn’t quit the club! Haha! Oops, sorry… And so it gets awkward between everyone. Yup, even the other members are affected. Even Tsubasa has a talk with Sayaka but nothing conclusive since the latter doesn’t want to butt in to the affairs of others. As this awkwardness cannot go on, the rest setup for Tsubasa and Tomoe to meet. A little chat here and there. To cut cliché friendship drama short, they’re back again as friends. Especially when Tsubasa became so emotional about the thought that they aren’t best friends! Gimme a big hug with loads of tears! With everything back to normal, there is nothing left but for them to get better at their game.

Episode 7
Broken bat. Hole in the net. No money. Baseball maintenance is sure expensive and taking part time jobs is only a short term solution. The only way is to upgrade their association status to a club. Talking to Shiho about it, she sends Kana Tsukumo to evaluate. Meanwhile Yuuki stumbles into old elementary schoolmate who is also in Satogahama, Maiko Kurashiki and finds that she isn’t in any club yet. Care to join the baseball club? After all, Maiko has this penchant to help others in need even if she doesn’t admit it. Maiko tries out playing baseball as Kana who could have been their greatest asset since she is quite athletic but she is only here to observe. But Kana knows that Maiko is a troubled child and often has run-ins with the police. It gets a bit awkward when Kana and Maiko have some sort feud since Kana is brutally honest and saying it with a deadpan face. We see Maiko is having household problems. More like her parents are fighting and she is caught in the middle. She can’t stand this and runs away. Because of that, she ends up in a fight with drunkards in town and although the drunkards were the one who started the fight, Maiko is also taken in by the police?! WTF is wrong?! So when the baseball girls hear about this, you bet they get worried and start looking for her. Maiko and her mom are talking to teachers about this problem at school. Maiko then snaps because she cannot stand people talk about what’s best for her when it is only in their own best interest. She is mad they are going to take away her place. Of course Kana heard all that and goes to talk to Maiko. Ironically from a girl who has ‘facial muscle problem’, she wants Maiko to smile more often. She can tell Maiko is having fun with the baseball girls and Maiko is surprised because she thought nobody ever looked at her. In the end, Maiko only has to send in a written apology (no suspension or expulsion. Phew) and because Kana giving her heartfelt speech to the teachers how the baseball club gives Maiko a place to be, the association is now officially a club and yes, Maiko officially joins as a full-fledge member.

Episode 8
Hey. Kana has joined the baseball club? I guess sooner or later this is the question that all clubs need to answer: Do you want to participate in the Nationals? Oh yeah. Looking up at some of the online clips, we can see some really professional play from established high schools. Especially Kogetsu High School whose star player is Tsubaki Kousaka. Then they look at the tournament bracket. You mean they don’t have to go into preliminaries and can go straight into the Nationals? Hooray! The perks of not having many female baseball clubs at high school level. Then a short history on the on and off popularity of female in baseball. But here is their biggest problem yet: Money. If they win games, they have to cover transport and lodging costs on their own. Don’t worry, despite the student council has approved the club, all they need now is the school’s approval and Kakehashi will get it done. Unfortunately the senior teacher rejects her because of the unrealistic budget. Heck, this school doesn’t even have a boy’s baseball club and you know how expensive it is to run a baseball team? Besides, how is Kakehashi going to handle 2 clubs at the same time? Despite Kakehashi promising this and that, this is still not enough to convince her. So Kakehashi ‘lies’ to the girls that everything is going on fine. We know she doesn’t want to worry them but the girls are smart enough to know from her reaction that things are going smoothly. Just when Kakehashi is about to give up, she sees the girls help nurturing sunflower next to their practice field. I guess some water spray fun made her go kookie. Or it helped refreshed her outlook. Because now she is determined to see this through. With Ayaka writing supportive articles on the baseball club, the girls also get signatures from everyone to support them. I’m thinking with those thick sets of paper, heck they might even got the entire town! Once more Kakehashi sees the senior teacher. I guess after all the persistence, she relents. Even though this would still be a problem for her to handle both clubs, she hints Kakehashi can handle the baseball club while she takes over her kendo club. Oh wow. Super good news. We did it, girls! We’re going to play ball at the Nationals this year!

Episode 9
What to do when the tournament is around the corner? Training camp! My theory for them staying at the temple is not only because it’s cheap, maybe they’ll get divine intervention to help them win games!!! Haha! We see them practice and Ryou and Tsubasa are asking if Yuuki can be their pitcher since she is left-handed. She turns them down as she doesn’t have confident in herself and thinks she might hurt others with her throw. With some of the girls having a hard time finding their rhythm, it seems the tempo of the priest’s wooden block did the trick to synchronize their timing. More boring training scenes in between. Until the last day of their stay, Ryou then dismisses claims from the other girls that there was a head priest. That short guy who is always smiling? Never seen him. Oh sh*t… As proof, they review the videos that Ayaka has been recording. Nobody there! No such person at all! OH SH*T!!! Then a blackout happens. Meanwhile, only Yuuki is away washing the dishes so she probably didn’t hear about the ghost thingy since the head priest talks to her about her low self-confidence. He has her practice her pitching. What if her pitch hurts him? Just pretend that he is a ghost! He hopes she can keep smiling and relax because baseball is supposed to be fun. With that, Yuuki makes a successful pitch. Hey, where did the head priest go? Meanwhile it gets scarier for the other girls because they see a spirit ball coming towards them! HOLY SH*T!!! Turns out to be Kakehashi checking on them. What nice timing the lights come back on. Kakehashi even notes there is no old guy around and the current head priest who lives here is only 30 years old. But they think that old guy isn’t evil because he is always smiling. Later it is revealed that ex-head priest is the current one’s father and he was a baseball player. As the girls continue practising back home, they realize Tsubaki watching them. Scouting the enemy?

Episode 10
Tsubaki asks a few questions and then leaves. You mean nobody recognizes her? Only when they’re back in the room did they realize who she is. What’s that again she’s the number one pitcher in Japan? Here’s news from Kakehashi: Kogetsu wants to play a practice match with them. Why do only strong teams want to play with Satogahama? Is it morally boosting to bash a lowly opponent? You bet they’re going to accept this. Tsubasa allots the roles to her team. If it looks like Tomoe and Akane are left out, she lets them be the all important base coaches. Match day is here. It’s like the producers want to paint a bad picture of Tsubaki being a b*tch because she’s arrogant, refuses to shake hands with Tsubasa and claims this practice is for her third stringers. She’s just here to watch. Satogahama manages to take an early lead thanks to Ayaka’s data on these players. It’s like the producers want us to hate Tsubaki even further because she cracks the whip and lets the whole world know that if they don’t buck up, she’ll cut them off from the team! And there she was watching at the match as bored as f*ck. With this, Kogetsu is able to put up some fight. But there is some drama brewing on Satogahama side. It seems Akane has been running low on self-confidence. Any wrong calls, she takes it upon herself as fault of why they lost that run. It’s got to a point so low that it’s so freaking obvious that it’s time for Tsubasa to come weave her magic motivational talk. You know, how her motivation kept her going. Blah, blah, blah. And with a great pat on the back, you bet Akane is up and running. Now it is Satogahama’s turn to turn on the heat. When you want something done, do it yourself. Because now Tsubaki decides to get into the play. But alas a little too late as Satogahama wins this match by a narrow margin. Yeah, so happy that they’re crying. Never saw this coming, huh? Eat that, Tsubaki b*tch!

Episode 11
The Nationals are finally here! So guess who Satogahama will face in the first round? Seijo! The power of coincidence has them stay at the same place and even having BBQ together! Is this power bonding? Awkward but whatever. Let’s have a good game, right? And as always, Tsubasa thanking her girls for always sticking with her. With Satogahama and Seijo being the first match the kick off the Nationals, Satogahama has extra support in the form of their schoolmates as well as family members coming over to watch. Otherwise this is a very much empty stadium. To cut short this first match, we see Satogahama drawing first blood by scoring the first point. Gee, Seijo getting depressed and despite claiming they have improved a lot ever since, does this mean they were underestimating them in the first place? And then with Sayaka getting serious as the pitcher and batter, Seijo manages to earn a point and now draw with Satogahama. Gee, it’s still early in the game and the opponents just caught up, why Satogahama is looking depressed right now? I guess tensions are running high. Nobody wants to be the laughing stock to go out early in this game.

Episode 12
The game continues and as we see the running joke of Yoshimi who has never been able to bat a pitch, when she finally hits her first ball, she strikes homerun!!! Now who’s laughing?! This has Seijo call a timeout. Sayaka promises she’ll take it from here but one of the members tell her to stop. Some short snippets of how Sayaka singlehandedly revived Seijo’s baseball club after it was disbanded by the previous coach’s scandal. Amidst the praising it was her who built up this club and got them this far, she also says the problem of everyone relying on her. Therefore she doesn’t want Sayaka to carry the rest of the team by herself. Because, did she have fun? Did Tsubasa influence her? I guess so. Because she’ll let today be an exception. The game continues. Seijo looks like they’re playing better now. Yawn… Until Aoi sprains her ankle! Time to switch to Tomoe. Also, Maiko’s hand is going to break from all that pitching so she switches with Yuuki. Time to strut her stuff. More snippets until the game… Oh what’s this?! An article written how Satogahama lost in the second round???!!! Wait a minute!!! They fast forwarded too much!!! But thanks to their heroic efforts, there are more girls now interested to join their baseball club. Yeah, you can find them practising down at their sunflower field. Don’t be shy. Just play ball!

Life’s A Pitch!
Man… That kind of ending that felt so rushed that it felt just downright insulting! Not only did we not see how Seijo lost to Satogahama, however we didn’t even see how Satogahama lost in the next round! Heck, we don’t even know who they lost too! WTF?! It puts all the final episode drama on Seijo to waste. Uh huh. Oddly Seijo feels like they were the one in focus for the final episode. Sayaka was so adamant to not let Seijo’s story end here but from what we’ve seen, she must be crying all alone in her room. Poor Sayaka. She was already burdened with this responsibility and then this. Just only 2 months ago they beat Satogahama in a practice game but looks like they’ve improved a lot. Furthermore, she personally coached Tomoe and it’s like the student got better than the master. How cruel fate is. Nobody knows what happened to Sayaka and Seijo after that match but who cares because it is all smiles for Satogahama. Yup. We’re all still having fun playing baseball. Care to join us? Me? Nah. I’m good.

Sad to say that the story and plot itself is predictable, clichéd and not interesting at all to say the least. However this is because of the injustice of just having a dozen episodes and that itself is not enough to flesh out everything properly. We only have 12 episodes to flesh out everything and therefore everything feels so much pretty rushed although at some points it got a little draggy because you know, they need to put in some drama. Hence this series was somewhat doomed from the start when it was announced it will only have 12 episodes. I am not sure there will be future season but seeing the direction and the response to this series, it is mostly unlikely. Unlike its Diamond No Ace and Mix counterparts, this one never had a chance to shine at all. Those 2 animes already had an established fan base and have a lot of episodes prior to this. That is why even though I did not watch them, I can tell that they are doing much better than this one. Yeah, I read the internet comments on them too.

Worse still, the baseball game here isn’t exciting and I believe is not the main highlight. Especially the final episode which just felt like one long snippet that went on and on and on. I was thinking when the heck this is going to be over and move on to the next game. I am deducing that they want to bring in some character development and put the focus on the group of girls but personally I feel that fails too. You see, when you have a season that spends most of its time trying to recruit members and then trying to tackle the drama and issues that some of the characters are facing, where does the baseball game go? Heck, the Nationals don’t even start after 5/6 of the season is gone! The Nationals officially starts on the penultimate episode of the season!!! At this point, I am predicting the dark horse of Satogahama will lose early or they will leave a cliff-hanger if they manage to go on and surprise everyone and win their matches. It doesn’t help that baseball is not my favourite sport or the kind of sport that I would consider in my top 10, 20 or 50! Hence when I look at the girls play their practice and official match, they’re just boring and I’m so lost at what they’re doing. Just like how people who don’t like football see 22 grown men chasing a ball around the field, I view baseball as 18 people hitting and throwing a ball while running around the field.

If the story sucks and the baseball game itself sucks, what about the characters then? Oh, you already know the answer. They suck too. Like I have said, a dozen episodes is not enough to do justice and flesh out all the characters even in the same team. Due to this limit, we see them breezing through and it felt a bit rushed. That’s why with the initial team recruiting episodes, it felt like they need to quickly make up the numbers and hence pulled in other girls who are ‘interested’. Gee, that was fast. What a coincidence, we got enough members just in time for the Nationals. So what Tsubasa had some baseball experience and only wants to play baseball because of fun? So what Ryou wants to make it big but looks like her dreams are too big and ever since she officially began joining the team, she became a minor character. I thought she was the ace of the team but it felt like she didn’t even make any impact at all. I thought she would be Satogahama’s first pitcher or batter seeing that she is good but I don’t know what Tsubasa was thinking as she let others do the pitching and batting and Ryou is just playing in some other field. Is she okay with that? Well, if everyone is okay with it, fine by me. They seem to make a big deal out of Tsubasa’s goal to have fun playing baseball. You mean when one is aiming to be competitive, you can’t have fun? Why not have both? Has baseball become so competitive that if you want to be the best of the best, the top of your game, you can’t enjoy the game? Maybe when you’re an internationally famous big star raking in the big bucks, maybe. Who these girls, man???!!!

When you have a bunch of misfits in your group, that sort of variety in characterization and personality should be interesting to watch but unfortunately the same cannot be said here. It feels that the other girls in Satogahama have personality that is just superficial, enough just to distinguish everyone from each other. Is Yoshimi some sort of delinquent and banchou wannabe? Because that’s all I see in her aside that serial missed batting running joke. Not as troubled as Maiko but thank goodness her family troubles didn’t spill over and affect the baseball team, right? Should Ayaka be in journalism instead of playing baseball? I don’t know, her journalism seems to be her better skill but I guess they’re short of members and we need someone who can get outside data. Because Waka is only on technicalities of the game so Ayaka is still needed as the ‘spy’.

Kana the robo because of her poker face and no emotions and Aoi the, uhm, perm? She should have been giving Kaiji a run for his money as a gambler but I guess we all forgot that she is one. High school girl as a gambler?! Gasp! That would have been interesting to watch! Then we have Yuuki and Akane having low self-confidence so whenever plot conveniences is needed to drive up the drama, you bet they have something on this. Same thing for Tomoe. Best friends sometimes do fight, right? All in all, the Satogahama girls fail to make us want to support them as I don’t even feel that their bonds with each other is that close. The training camp, the practices and even Tsubasa’s heartfelt grateful speech for her comrades sticking through thick and thin with her feel shallow. Kakehashi feels irrelevant and showing her putting in the ‘hard work’ to get the school to approve the club to play in the Nationals felt like the greatest achievement for her. Just in time, baby. Really. Otherwise, getting them scheduled practice matches seem to be easy pie. I wonder if her kendo club she is also supervising felt neglected. Oh don’t you worry. Kakehashi is young and single so you bet she has the energy to do both!

I know this is just a story and fantasy, but it still feels unrealistic that a group of girls who aren’t really that good in baseball (with the exception of Tsubasa and Ryou of course) they manage to put up a decent game. Sure, they made improvements. But in that short amount of time? Wow. They must be so talented and do nothing but practice, practice and more practice. Like Tomoe getting her coaching from a rival school, yeah that seems legit to show why she can play good baseball with her teammates. Akane overcoming her low self-confidence, it’s like once that has been conquered, she’s going full speed ahead and her playing has soared! What about their practice field that is next to a sunflower patch? I guess they cleaned it up good so they are rewarded with exceptional practice sessions. I don’t know. Might be the spirit of the field’s way of thanking them for taking care of the place. Better than all those expensive baseball dedicated facilities, eh? Wow. Super realistic, girls. It’s a wonder why no talent agency has scouted them already. Oh right. They lost so I guess that’s that. Hey, at least we don’t have to put up with that Tsubaki b*tch whose appearance now felt even more redundant since the series ended.

Heck, come to think of it, I believe they even misnamed the title. Although 9 people are to play on a baseball field, because Satogahama has 11 members, shouldn’t it be Hachigatsu No Cinderella Eleven? I’m sure nobody is going to confuse that with Ocean’s Eleven or something. And I don’t think Cinderella is such a fitting term to use in baseball because nobody wears glass slippers to play baseball, right?! Do you see the Satogahama girls wearing glass slippers?! There was no magic in the first place so when it struck midnight, there was no magic that disappeared on them at the crucial time (I’m referring to their second round lost, just to be sure we’re on the same page).

Art and animation feel mediocre. There are many scenes in which the movement of the girls feel jerky and their facial expressions feel stiff. And it’s just weird that all the girls have this cute trademark on them that I believe is their glossy lips and big pretty anime eyes. Hmm… Kawaii… Me like. No wonder I was ‘attracted’ to watch this series. You can tell how ‘relevant’ the other baseball teams are by their baseball outfit. While Satogahama’s are pretty okay, those unimportant teams in the Nationals whom we will never know nor care are so f*cking plain and generic! Yeah… And they also try to differentiate the girls with different hairstyles and colours of the eyes and hair but the most outrageous designs are those who aren’t from the baseball club but other schoolmates. Do you not notice there is a girl with this outrageous pompadour hairstyle?! Then there is a tanned petite girl who somewhat reminds me of Love Hina’s Kaolla Su. Seriously. And she has a chibi as a pet squirrel? Oh, is that shy low self-confidence girl Nagato from Suzumiya Haruhi No Yuutsu? Is this another one of those animes she disappeared down the line? Damn, these girls would make it more interesting if they join the baseball club.

I guess differentiations in character designs are important because sometimes I might get confused with other characters. Because I thought Tsubasa + Ryou = Sayaka! Remember what I said about the girls’ expressions being rigid? Because for those who don’t really smile and have this serious look, I can foresee that if you just switch their hairstyles and hair and eye colour, they become that character! So if you switch Ryou with Kana, I guess they’re the same person! Same case for Tomoe and Ayaka. Same case for Waka and Shiho (by the way, doesn’t Shiho look like that stalker girl from Momokuri?). Damn, this is weird. Oddly, I thought Akane would forever where those cat ears and never take them off. Heck, she’s even got a baseball cap with that design. And that practice match with Kogetsu she wore a standard cap, I was like, who the heck is this character???!!! Yeah, those cat ears are so important to differentiate her now… But for some characters I suppose I can always 100% tell with certainty like Aoi because nobody has got a perm like hers. And why the heck does Tsubaki look like a meaner version of Da Capo’s Sakura?! This anime is done by TMS Entertainment who have done better sport anime titles like Megalo Box, Yowamushi Pedal, All Out and even, uhm, Baki? Unfortunately I didn’t see all of them.

Overall, this is a mediocre anime and serve to only ‘trick’ simpletons like yours truly into watching and thinking it is because it is cute girls doing cute things, baseball edition. And f*ck, no yuri at all! There are a hell lot of dedicated and better baseball series out there other than the aforementioned duo such as H2, Ookiku Furikabutte, One Outs and Major to name a few. Sad to say, although I cannot remember Princess Nine and Taishou Yakyuu Musume, my guts tell me they are still much better than this one. Stories of an underdog sports team are always welcomed and doesn’t grow old. However it is how the story and characters are executed and paced that becomes the challenge into whether making the series a hit or bomb. This series felt like it only had its 15 minutes of fame and then head back into the sleepy wilderness forever. Women in baseball itself is a novelty and not even as popular as their male counterparts not only in Japan but around the world and with this mediocrity, it is no wonder why not many females are going to pick up the sport and turn it into something more popular than what their male counterparts can do. I’m not saying that all sports, men dominate and play better. There are a few sports that we all still love to watch women play. Beach volleyball anyone?!

Circlet Princess

October 6, 2019

Time for another made up futuristic sci-fi team sport. The last time I watched Ao No Kanata No Four Rhythm, I wasn’t really impressed. It was weird despite they tried to create something creative. But that series didn’t get any sort of follow up or sequel since its run back in 2016. And now we have yet another futuristic sci-fi team sport, Circlet Princess. In this world, we assume that VR technology has advanced so much that we are able to create this bizarre sport that only females seem to participate. And yeah, the typical story of a fallen powerhouse in the sport making a comeback because of a talented ace joining in. Yeah, the story is as cliché as you can get and not made up.

Episode 1
Oh yeah. Circlet Bout (CB) is all the rage now, right? Chikage Fujimura from Kurojishi Academy is the top dog with a 50 match winning streak. However as revealed in the backstage, everything has been a setup. You mean like WWE? Understandably Chikage is bored but as her manager puts it, she is free to go all out with the next rookie opponent she faces. It’s all part of the show anyway. Since there is still some time before the match, she goes out for a walk. Meanwhile, country bumpkin retard, Yuka Sasaki just arrived in the big city. Wow. Everything so futuristic! Plot cliché commands her to be awed by the awesome poster girl of CB who is no other than Chikage. She is supposed to meet up with someone but gets enthralled and followed signs that leads her to the CB stadium. Along the way, she meets Chikage in disguise. Blah, blah, blah. Outside the stadium, some stupid girl mistakes her to be the Candita (player) from St Union Academy and rushes to get her ready. Yeah, without checking anything, right? Because Yuka is a dumb retard, she accepts. Yeah, everything will work out somehow, no? In the ring, Chikage and Yuka see each other. Is this fate? You can tell Yuka has all the beginner’s luck as she blocks Chikage’s offence and dodges. Wow. This is getting exciting for you huh, Yuka? Chikage must be really frustrated thinking she isn’t as strong as a champion she thought she is, huh? The match end is cut off and we fast forward 2 years later. She is ecstatic to enrol at St Union, the school of her dreams. Meanwhile Miyuki Kasahara and Ayumu Aizawa are at their wits end to revive their club. I don’t think making a cheap video will somehow generate views. Will it?! Coincidentally they stumble upon a clip about that legendary CB match 2 years ago that put Chikage in a pinch. Then they see Yuka in the flesh having problems with the robot security. Why do they look like they’re trying to rape her if they’re just asking for her student ID she is unable to produce? Luckily the duo manage to help her out and hence their chance to ask her to join their club. But first, Yuka sees Reina Kuroda who is the student council president. She instantly gets shot down because there is no CB club at St Union. Oh sh*t! Say what?! Her dreams come crushing down but Yuka refuses to budge and continues bugging Reina?! WTF?! Yuka returns to her dorm and coincidentally this is also where Ayumu stays. Ayumu realizes she is that Yuka 2 years ago and believes this could be something big. Flashback 2 years ago again. The match ended abruptly because the power was cut. Due to system error, Chikage postponed their match. So next time, huh? What a way to set fate rolling.

Episode 2
Continuing from that episode, as Yuka leaves to the backstage, the strange announcer confronts her and claims she has potential, blah, blah, blah. So she gives her a bracelet that will certainly have her reunite with Chikage one day. Yeah, that’s good enough a promise and motivation for Yuka to totally get interested in this. Because if you think you can’t achieve something, try until you can! Yeah, I really love that quote… Now, Yuka continues to bug Reina. She’ll make a new club then. Rejected! Please don’t rape her if she rejects, Yuka! Later Yuka meets up with Miyuki and Ayumu and realize they are part of CB club. Unofficial club, that is. Oh yeah. Now she can play. But first, it’s Miyuki’s turn to go bug Reina to approve their club and they just need a couple of members. She hopes Reina can join since she used to play CB but of course, the b*tch declines. Ayumu shows Yuka that legendary clip. You mean she didn’t know it is online? Oh yeah, the rural areas don’t have internet. She plays dumb since she doesn’t want to be busted as that accidental player who was there. The trio practice CB. Ayumu the computer whiz cannot analyse Yuka’s strange circlet weapon. The practice is interrupted with Reina once again using her authority to stop all unauthorized activities. They just got a slap on the wrist with house arrest? The moment they are back, Yuka is seen trying to recruit new members via old fashion way: Handling out pamphlets. And she gets into Reina trouble again… I don’t think Yuka is going to stop bugging her to approve the CB club and even with Reina spewing all that procedure and formalities, suddenly her aide informs her of something important. So apparently Reina has to suspend her actions to stop the formation of the CB club because St Union got a request for a practice match with Takamori Academy. You mean that legendary video just went viral? Like, now?! Miyuki teases Reina that she is dying to play this game and hints about her older sister who was a CB champ. So why is Takamori really trying to achieve with this practice match? According to their captain, Hiyori Sugiura, it’s to motivate their players. Because Ayana Kuroda has a younger sister there and this should give great incentive for their regulars. While Yuka is eating with her friends, suddenly her bracelet talks! WTF????!!!

Episode 3
The bracelet is being some naggy coach, eh? Some top class battle AI, eh? And Yuka being a retard means this is going to take a while… Yuka wants to get stronger in all aspects but the bracelet rejects. No can do. I guess he isn’t some wonder drug. But he’ll do what he can. Phew. Safe. Yuka can continue with her fate to meet Chikage then. Don’t worry about wasting an episode to find a new member because Nina Avelin decides to test it out. Yes, she is half Russian. Uhm, since when did Reina join? Is she unofficially officially in? Whatever, now they have an official CB club! Yay! They practice and Miyuki owns Yuka big time. Bet she’ll improve during the real match? So the first match pits Miyuki and some unknown Takamori Candita. Damn, Miyuki lost? Next is Reina against another unknown. While Reina shows her experience, unfortunately because she has this losing mentality and does not expect to win, she loses. WTF?! More misfortune because this is best of 3, oh damn you mean Takamori wins it?! Thank goodness it’s practice match so nothing officially recorded. Just hurt pride. Because they can’t just go home with this easy win, I guess Takamori is eager to continue with the practice. Hence eager beaver Yuka gets to go next. She is facing Kasumi Iida who is one of the top players. This won’t look good… If she wasn’t the main character to begin with! Thus you can see Yuka putting up a decent fight against Iida that shocks everybody. Yeah, didn’t expect this retard to last that long, huh? Her bracelet has analysed her moves and gives some hints. In the end, a swift move from Yuka has her defeat Iida. Wow. This upset victory has got to be the most exciting match, huh? Yuka decides to call her bracelet, Siegfried or Sieg for short. I guess it’s better than G-kun. WTF… Sugiura isn’t sad but glad they might be witnessing the birth of a new legend. You don’t say, huh? Coincidentally Chikage is also watching this and is glad Yuka is back in the game.

Episode 4
Flashback shows Ayana totalling owning her opponent in a CB game. Wow. Young Reina so impressed and vowed to be like her. Wow. So young. So motivated. Too bad we won’t get to see the rest of the practice match but from what I understand, it looked like a 100 men sparring match and only Yuka won. Thanks to that, she has some fans back at school cheering for her. Yuka is briefed on the Princess Cup. Yeah, you know the most prestigious tournament that every sports genre must have. But currently, Kurojishi Sougou Academy has been holding on to that throne for a long time. That school is where Chikage goes. When the girls are being called by the director, they think it’s because Yuka won her practice match. Because Takamori is their sister school and they’re supposed to lose? Hence it’s all Yuka’s fault?! Good thing it’s not that. Sugiura thanks them for a wonderful match and welcomes St Union’s CB’s return. However b*tch Reina insists the club’s closure. I guess only now Yuka hears of Ayana and her exploits. Ever since she left for America, St Union lost its ace and started dwindling. This makes Yuka feel uneasy. No, it’s not your stomach growling! Sieg’s best reply: You overeat! Sugiura talks to Yuka and is scouting her to join Takamori since they have all the facilities to help her get into her game. She can then challenge Kurojishi. But what’s eating Yuka? She still not happy? After Ayumu lets her see clips of Ayana in action (in which Reina’s moves mirrors Ayana’s move although it lacks something), she’s all fired up to go bug Reina. Yeah, Reina just dissed another attempt by Miyuki. So Reina is out of the club just so she can close it down? Yuka confronts Reina in the toilet and talks about Ayana’s greatness. Reina explains St Union didn’t want to hold her back, that’s why they let her go to America as it has the latest technology. But look what it did to St Union? By the time Reina enrolled, the CB club is as good as dead. She rejects Yuka’s invitation to join. So desperate that Yuka decides to go see Chikage at Kurojishi? No wonder she gets kicked out. Then she challenges Reina. She accepts because if Reina wins, Yuka will join Takamori. Is that her way of getting rid of her? Yuka seems to be imitating Ayana’s move. And Reina seems to be having those flashbacks about her sister departing. Yeah, so devastated. In the end, we can tell Reina lost because she has to join the club now. Yay! They’re official now.

Episode 5
Miyuki is voted as the captain of their CB club. Yeah, she’s the only one who volunteered. So starts off with their plan for Princess Cup. The usual line-up: Miyuki, Reina and then Yuka. Nina and Ayumu serve as backup. They attend the draw and it seems for the first round, St Union will be up against Hoshinoumi Academy. Yup, another good CB school. Typically, Hoshinoumi has this rich b*tch girl, Christie Yamauchi who has some sort of rivalry with Miyuki. As expected, she badmouths her about running away from her track club and as well as her current CB. You gonna let that fly, Miyuki. Oh damn. Looks like Christie’s words got to her. Because of that, she can’t concentrate in practice and her friends know something is wrong. With Yuka in her typical retard to assure her, Reina knows it is something that Christie said. Time to get it off her chest by telling her past. As her family makes shoes, naturally she loves running and was a good athlete, putting in all the effort. However many think she is successful because she had money and access to facilities. This made her depressed and at the crossroads. That was when she saw Ayana in a CB bout and decided to quit track and join this weird sport. Had she not quit her track, she would have ended up at Hoshinoumi since they also produce good athletes. Princess Cup starts. Because Miyuki is still having low self-confidence, she switches place with Yuka. Yuka easily wins her match and you thought Reina would be enough to seal the deal. But she lost! Turns out it was an ‘elaborate’ setup so as to get Miyuki to face Christie in the decisive match and put this thorny issue to rest. Of course Miyuki still has doubts and is weak. We hear a bit of Christie’s grudge against her because she looked up to Miyuki but before she could face her in a competition, she quit. Yeah… Since Miyuki continues to be pathetic, Reina scolds to remind her that her true ability is running. Is it allowed to have time to talk like that in the middle of the match? Anyway, this gives Miyuki the much needed confidence to turn the tables and defeat Christie. Wow. So easy. Just run around and make Christie tired. Yeah… She better train her body more before running her mouth… Miyuki admits she may have run away but now she won’t look back and will continue to run forward.

Episode 6
Because Reina has some student council duties, Nina replaces her in the first CB match but she basically got easily owned. But thanks to Miyuki and Yuka, St Union won this round. We see her let loose some steam on her online shooter game and it tells us a lot that she is a good sniper. Musashino Kyuoh Academy is their next opponent and they are the top 4 favourites for the Princess Cup. But of course. In order to help Nina become a strong attacker, they go shopping for her weapon. Just when she picked out this rifle one she likes, so sorry, we’re on a budget. WTF?! And also, no money means limited amount of bullets they can buy. You mean ammo isn’t infinite in this digital technology game?! So I guess she goes with a spear. During a practice match with Yuka, she lost badly. No prizes to guess why she suddenly becomes so dejected. So much so Yuka stalks her?! So to find out what is bugging her, she goes to bug her?! WTF?! Since Nina is not the kind to talk, I guess the next plan is have all of them clean the pool. However some blooper has Nina spraying water hard on Yuka. This means she is down with a cold and will not recover in time for the next match. Damn, this girl is weak! I guess this means Nina has to cover for her. Later Ayumu talks to Nina. Ayumu reveals she is the online shooter game partner whom she interacts often with. Surprise! She also explains the cleaning job was to get some funds to buy Nina her desired weapon. Wow. The pool cleaning job must really pay, huh? More pleasant surprise in store for Nina as they got the rifle weapon for her. With their match with Musashino on the way, Miyuki goes first and lost since she couldn’t see the enemy’s weapon coming. Next is Nina. Can she survive with only 2 bullets? She has Ayumu be her eyes on the field as the stage is littered with ruins. Her first shot misses and when the opponent charges close up, WTF she hears Yuka’s voice to duck and doing so, she is now point blank with the opponent and makes her final shot count. I guess Yuka couldn’t stay in bed and dragged herself out to cheer on Nina. Needless to say, Reina wins it for St Union. Nina thanks her friends for doing all this for her. Correction. We did this together for our CB club.

Episode 7
St Union is pretty much a rising star now, so much so Yuka is nicknamed the Overclock Princess. Sorry, it’s not Order Croquette Princess, Yuka! Don’t think with your stomach! As Yuka practises with Reina, the rest note they don’t know much about Yuka to begin with. Especially who gave her Sieg. To help boost their morale for the semi-final match with Kurojishi, they hang out together. In the streets, they are famous enough that everyone gives them freebies! Are they all passing off with that Overclock brand name? Then they go karaoke in which Yuka and Miyuki fight over the right to sing. I guess better than tone deaf Reina… And is Nina just on an eating spree? Ayumu then talks about MR being a by-product of the CB system. That’s why they are very influential in so many technologies and facilities today. They are also the reason why Ayumu became interested in CB because of its concept. With Ayumu getting technical, I guess the rest can’t follow (especially Yuka of course) and they even joke she could be a spy! Flashback shows Ayumu’s dad was a researcher and she was fascinated with some 3D princess knight model he rendered. And of course, Ayumu watching Yuka practice alone, suddenly she sees all her moves so similar to that princess knight. Talking to her, because Yuka is willing to do anything to improve herself and face Chikage again, Ayumu wants Yuka to battle her. Why do Miyuki and Reina feel so shocked? Sure, she is the support but this is just to collect data, right? Her research about CB didn’t yield the data she wanted so could Yuka be the missing link to her father as well? Since Ayumu hacked her weapon’s script, it is obviously overpowered. Yuka is made to run like hell but all her movements are again similar to that princess knight. Even the way she countered and charged through her eventual victory. Yeah, Ayumu’s weapon broke! Sure, Yuka is fast but is she that powerful? Then we see Ayumu using her connections to get into the backstage of Kurojishi just to see Chikage. She wants to know more about Yuka, especially what happened on that fateful day. Something about the overheating factor too.

Episode 8
Officially, the reports said Chikage’s attack caused the overheating factor. However, Ayumu believes Yuka is the key. From what I understand, Yuka seems fast only because the system cannot process her moves fast enough. Hence some sort of ‘shortcut’. This is an ability she has although she herself is unaware she could use it. Chikage too has this ability. When both used this, that is why the system crashed and blackout for a while. That is the real overheating factor. Ayumu hopes this answer would lead her to her father’s whereabouts. The semi-finals are here and St Union is up against Takamori. Revenge match, right? Reina goes first and wins. Miyuki faces Sugiura next but we all know that to prolong the drama, she has to lose. After all, Takamori has studied St Union’s matches like a bible. And now for the expected grudge match between Yuka and Iida. We know Yuka is having some worries because of the b*tch talk Iida had with her in the toilet as well the night before, Sieg told her not to rely on him and think for herself. Uh oh. Sounds like some death flag trouble. You can say that Takamori’s studying pays off since Iida is now able to predict Yuka’s moves. Uh huh. Don’t really on your sight. Use foresight. And you know what they say about the best offence is the best defence? Yup. Iida was just blocking most of the time. WTF weapon fatigue that Yuka’s weapon broke?! I guess that’s it. St Union lost. Yuka is already depressed and made even more so when Sieg doesn’t respond to her. Damn, like as though he is dead. Is this thing out of battery? Oops, sorry. The rest try to leave her alone but when Yuka doesn’t come out of her room for too long, they go in and check on her only to see her room empty. A note. I’m sorry. Yeah, that sure really says a lot. For somewhat who talks a lot, she sure kept it brief. Heh. Looks like they’ve got to go after her back at her home. Yes, her home back in the mountains.

Episode 9
Buckle up. It’s going to be a long train trip to Wakayama. I don’t think the shinkansen goes there either. Yuka practises in her old shed. Her old CB practice programme still working? Yeah, she’s so powerful, her stats are off the charts! As he bums around and feeling sorry for running away, surprise! Her friends pop up and tell her she should say that in person. However, Yuka being Yuka, she thinks they are ghosts and are back to haunt her for that loss!!! WTF?! Damn, Yuka is a fast runner! When cornered, they explain about this double elimination rule. There is still a chance to come back if you lose once. WTF?! Does this rule only apply to them or the rest? But Yuka still feels uneasy because Sieg is ‘dead’. They talk more over the hotspring, giving more assurance to Yuka that she’s not useless as she thinks she is, blah, blah, blah. Then over dinner, they hear how Yuka got into St Union via scholarship. This has Ayumu asking Yuka where she got Sieg. A pervert gave it to her. Ayumu realizes that person is her father, Makoto. She analyses the bracelet. It looks completely dead and all files missing. Funny, Yuka was able to summon her weapon in yesterday’s practice. Demonstrating her moves in the shed, Ayumu concludes that the file must be hidden. She believes all this is CB DKX, a battle development kit. It is only something her father possessed. As an engineer of MR system, the idea of VR led him to develop this CB game. During that point where CB wasn’t sure of taking off, Chikage was cultivated as an unrivalled player. Despite the success, the project was shelved. Makoto parted ways with his team and disappeared. Makoto only left behind this terminal in which Ayumu thought where all the answers like but it seems it could be in the bracelet. So why did he entrusted it to Yuka? Despite Yuka becoming stronger, she has been shackled with that playstyle. Hence the reason Sieg ‘died’. She cannot win if she continues to play like this. Hence a challenge by Makoto. With renewed confidence and motivation, the girls head for home. Meanwhile Takamori loses to Kurojishi. Thanks to that double elimination rule, I guess the losers are going to battle each other to face Kurojishi. Damn, this is confusing.

Episode 10
Nina defeats her Musashino opponent because she’s cocky, talkative and underestimating. That’s what you deserve. So apparently the loser’s match only has 1 match, huh? And of course this means they will fight Takamori for the right to face you-know-who. Ayumu thinks Yuka needs a new weapon but first she needs to analyse her data and Sieg. Meanwhile Reina uses her influence to seek resource donation from others. Well, if she’s bowing down like that, can’t say no, eh? Even Miyuki goes to town to ask for donation. After passing off that Overclock brand, you better pay back something. And in no time all the resources come flowing in! As Ayumu has trouble figuring out Sieg, not sure what happened when she touched that princess knight render and suddenly everything becomes unlocked! WTF?! On the other side, Takamori has their own issues. It seems Sugiura won’t participate in this loser’s match against St Union and this causes some friction among the members. She knows Yuka will be chosen and hence she wants Iida to take on her. Some psychological strategy too, I guess. But after some deliberation and talking, let’s move Takamori’s CB forward, okay? Chikage will also be watching this important match and it is confirmed the announcer is Makoto. The best way to dispel suspicions of your missing whereabouts is to turn into a drag queen? Makoto has Chikage analyse the odds of the match. Sugiura dominates in every aspect but Yuka is not one who is not confined to regular analysis. The loser’s match between Yuka and Sugiura begins. Yuka starts off aggressive but eventually Sugiura makes a comeback. So much so she breaks Yuka’s weapon! But don’t fear. Because it’s evolution time! The fragments now form into new weapons. Holy sh*t! Yuka just got herself 2 new swords? And this is supposed to be Sieg’s gift? With that, Yuka uses this and goes in for the kill- I mean, victory. On to the finals. Makoto is pleased with the outcome because this is essential for his greatest masterpiece to advance to the next stage.

Episode 11
Don’t feel bad Takamori. There’s always next year. So continue to work hard! Yeah! Ganbatte! Before the finals, Yuka and Chikage meet. Because Yuka already knows the bracelet was given by Makoto, Chikage wonders if she will continue to be manipulated by him. Yuka being Yuka who isn’t too smart on the technical stuffs is only playing because CB is fun. That’s your answer. So the finals begin with Reina going first. It’s a close match but she eventually loses. So as to show respect, her opponent even calls her worthy and asks her name. You mean she wasn’t paying attention to the announcer or the screen? Next up is Miyuki. Cut things short, a tricky move allows Miyuki to defeat her opponent. No surprise because we need the rubber match of Yuka versus Chikage. How many years has it been for their grudge match to resume? But as we can see, Chikage has more experience than Yuka so it’s natural that she dominates. So much so her double swords break! Oh no. Yuka don’t you go into depression again. But before Chikage could checkmate her, something strange happens. Oh, it’s Sieg going through another evolution! This time Yuka gets a pair of gloves! One punch in the gut! Now that Yuka is fighting back and stronger, Chikage getting scared she’ll lose? At the same time she is happy that she has finally found a strong opponent. Now Yuka destroys Chikage’s weapon. Game over, right? Not yet! Because Chikage too goes through some evolution! Oh my. I hope her darker uniform isn’t just for aesthetics.

Episode 12
Yuka takes a beating while Chikage sounds like she has turned to the dark side since she is enjoying every moment of this sadistic beat down. Guess what? Apparently Yuka’s uniform also transforms! Is this her final form? Yeah, thanks to all the people in her life that make her feel she’s not fighting alone. Yuka now has a fighting chance as we hear Makoto narrate more crap about emotions and evolving based on intuition and adapting rather than just blindly following orders. Woah! People start to give their resources in mid-match?! Is this even legal?! Things are going great and then uh oh. Yuka is at her limit. Is she going to lose for real? Time out. Weird conversation with Siegfried as he comes back ‘alive’ to scold Yuka and make her remember her original reason why she wants to fight against Chikage. And this allows Yuka’s uniform to evolve to another final form. A more princess-like form. And if Siegfried says she is the Princess, I guess she is the princess. Uh huh. No prize to guess who wins the Princess Cup. In the aftermath, we see St Union CB members bumming around with nothing to do. Shouldn’t they be practising? Because from what Reina said, due to the overheating factor again, this causes CB to undergo major overhaul in its rules and format. Because of that, St Union failed to adapt well like their other rivals and are on a losing streak. Yup. Rock bottom again. It is also rumoured they hired a hot overseas coach to help them. Ayumu didn’t see her dad once in the flesh. That wasn’t her real goal apparently. Knowing that he is still around and Makoto giving her all the data on MR system secrets, I guess she’s fine. If you’re wondering why Yuka isn’t with them, it’s because she is seeing off Chikage who is going overseas to hone her skills. You know the drill. They both hope they’ll get stronger by that time and fight again. Yuka’s pals come by to pick her up and continue to tease her because it’s nice once in a while to tease a retard.

Sure Crap Princess
Yawn… Oh… Thank goodness is over. I don’t know how the NPCs in this anime can get overly excited and hyped over this boring virtual made up sport. No wonder they are NPCs… Heh… Thank goodness it ended and there are no other major trophies for them to compete because the season could have ended in such a way that hints there might be another tournament for them to try again to be the best but I guess for this kind of sports, Princess Cup is the only major CB tournament. So major that we didn’t even get to see Yuka landing the finishing blow on Chikage. I suppose they want to leave it to our imaginations that there might be another overheating factor and Yuka winning on some technicalities. Imagine having this sort of error at a major event finals. Everything so great, everything so evolutionary but your system can’t handle it?! Fail! Back to the drawing board to redesign the system again!

I believe that the CB game itself is not given any sort of prominence. I feel that it is an unimportant factor here. While it looks like this CB game has its sets of rules and the likes, do you not feel that it is not really given any more depth than what we have seen? It feels like everything is just so made up on a whim so that they could have some sort of fighting sequence whatsoever. Hence the CB sport is probably one of the worst and ill-conceived futuristic sports that I have known to date. The basic premise of the sport is that you enter some VR, conjure up whatever weapon you think you are good at, beat the sh*t out of your opponent until she can no longer move. Yup. That’s as original as they can get for this CB game. It’s just sounds so boring. Even that weird water sport Keijo is way much better than this crap. I know, fanservice but still, it beats CB flat. I’d spend my money to go watch that ass game than this asinine one.

Making CB even worse is its format. Now, I understand that it is a team game and even if they want to make it a one on one match, don’t you think having just 3 matches total per game is a little too short? I mean, why the heck do you always have 5 members entering their standby platform then? Backup? I don’t see any substitutions during the game here. That’s why I earlier said they didn’t really thought out about this sport well. I think my suggestion if the format was a team deathmatch type, it would have been more exciting and better. Even if they don’t have all 5 on 5, at least 3 on 3 in this team battle royale format would at least give us some thrills. Though, this was largely hinted in the new shake up of the format but it comes rather too late. St Union won’t be there at the major stages any time soon even if they have their ace Yuka. Yeah, it goes to show that they aren’t really good CB team players to begin with… Therefore for this individual format, no real strategy except hit your opponent until she can go no more and maybe a few tricks to lead up to that. Stages are for aesthetics, uniforms are for aesthetics, weapons are mostly for aesthetics. Now we are reduced to just predicting who wins or loses instead of a real team battle to guess which one gets taken out first. And if the weapons break, does it mean your programming of its toughness is not enough?! It’s all digital, right?! To put the overall CB battles in short, just boring and uninspiring. No wonder there is ‘time’ for players to chat or mock each other during the game. Hey, we pay to see you fight, not to chitchat!

If they didn’t put much emphasis on the CB game, you’d think the characters make up for it, right? Wrong! Not at all. The characters also feel as boring and as cliché as you would expect a team sports anime to be. Each has their own quirky personalities but nothing that interesting that would make you really want to like them and you only do so because they are the main characters. I guess the formula of dark horses, no hopers or former powerhouses regain their glory again and rising up through the ashes is what a lot of people prefer. This way, it gives more drama, story and characters to build on rather than starting off with the featured characters as overpowered powerhouse. And now with the new rules, St Union is back to being no hopers and dark horses again. So it gives a chance for them to rise up like a phoenix once more. If they ever get that far, that is. Like I said, this formula isn’t bad despite being done to death and so cliché. But this series didn’t do it well so here I am b*tching about it as an excuse.

So like Yuka being the ace and the poster girl of the group. As usual she is of the my pace and retarded kind. I guess this is to show that she isn’t really a perfect character. Because if she was really smart and elegant like we wanted her, she would now seem like a perfect and overpowered character. Something that we viewers don’t really like. Ah, I see we are such hard audiences to please. Therefore with Yuka being a retard (whose stomach probably thinks more than her head), this gives her more room to do as she pleases and not give a damn about the technical parts. It’s the reason why she excels in CB so well. She doesn’t give a hoot about all the technicalities and what it takes to be an ultimate player in the game. All she wants is to have fun and her goal is to fight Chikage again. How simple can you get than that? And also to show you she has some more imperfections, hence that depression period when she lost. You thought people like her don’t care about wins or losses but it seems it really got to her then. Yeah, even retards have got emotions too, you know? Hence, your excuse for an additional episode for her friends to bring her back because we need the much needed friendship bonding this series lacks. It’s a team sport, so go figure. I suppose they want to show something that binds the group together, hence this running joke of Yuka letting her teammates eat her sour umeboshi. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it…

And the rest of the other CB players in St Union, well, I’m not really impressed either. Reina starts off as the b*tch who opposed everything just because of her past and then once she somewhat got over it (I guess that is why sometimes it is good to have stubborn retards like Yuka who doesn’t know the meaning of giving up), suddenly she joins the team. However I do not feel like she is really into it like the rest of them. Probably because of her poker face. I have got this feeling that Reina is just in it to make up for the numbers although her enthusiasm for the game improves as they advance further. I mean, when your team has gotten to the semi-finals and then the finals, it would be just really bad sportsmanship to not give a f*ck and not give it all. Having a sister who is a good CB player feels like just to give her character some sort of depth and hence the possibility that she will be more inclined to return to her CB roots than continuing to be a bitter student council president b*tch. If there is anybody who tops being the most stubborn and persistent, it’ll be Yuka. Yeah, that retard again… Bugging people until they literally change or give in. See, people? Consistency is key!

Nina serves as the backup of the team and sometimes when you need some sort of variation (because seeing Reina, Miyuki and Yuka order gets boring sometimes), Nina is slotted in to provide that alternative. It felt like some sort of excuse for her to suddenly join the CB club so that we don’t have to waste on an additional episode for the girls to go search for that elusive final member. Uh huh. I guess Reina already did that so don’t wanna waste more time on that. Then you have Miyuki as the club captain as well as Ayumu providing the technical support. Somehow I feel with Ayumu being the tech wizard feels wasted. At least in terms of the CB game. Like I’ve said, CB could have been better if it was a team match of 5. Because Ayumu doesn’t participate in real CB matches, it just feels wasted. So as to remind her she is of the brains kind and not of the fighting kind, that’s why she wears that oversized lab coat. All these girls have their own past and problems to deal with but nothing that an episode in focus could solve it and have them get over it and move on. If only really life is that simple. And as for the other girls from other teams, I guess they’re so forgettable that I don’t even know their names.

Even Chikage falls under this pitfall since we only see her as the most powerful in the game thanks to the media’s exposure. In this case, because the anime told us so. Otherwise being the most powerful player feels like an understatement because if this was only in Japan, what about overseas like America whose technology is said to be even better? So is Chikage just a local village camp in this sense? And why is Makoto doing all this thing in a roundabout way? He had to disappear and leave his daughter worried about his whereabouts just to evolve the game to the next level? Is this some sort of placebo effect? I mean if he announces he is going to do this and that, either everyone won’t take him seriously or people will start getting unrealistic expectations. Hence he only observes from the shadows as it is best to see people in their natural form. That’s why Yuka is his best bet. So what’s the next step in his evolution? So like Ayana, will he take his research to the next level by going overseas? I heard CB is pretty popular overseas too in this anime but if you can’t conquer Japan, you aren’t ready for the world yet! Haha!

The art and animation are pretty okay. Just average if you ask me. The futuristic designs don’t really feel futuristic at all because nothing says about the era being futuristic when you spam live holograms everywhere! Yeah. So futuristic. And even if this is a VR game, why do the Candita have to wear sexy leotards during the CB game? Sex appeal still a thing here? The weapon designs also don’t feel exciting. It’s like the staffs wanted to design something quick and hence you see each players wielding different weapons for variety. After all, it’s not like they’re going to really have the weapon and perform some really jaw dropping moves, right? On a trivial note, I noticed that Takamori’s school uniform is designed like a male! Girl schools have all the pretty different designs so much so you can tell them apart from one anime from another. Guys don’t really have that much variety. So seeing Takamori girls in that kind of outfit, just weird!

For the voice acting, Juri Nagatsuma (Satone in Chuunibyou Demo Koi Ga Shitai) did a really perfect job in making Yuka sound like a retard. Ryo Horikawa as Sieg and Makoto sounds like your weird pervy uncle and if he sounds like one only because he was the voice of Dragonball’s Vegeta. Yup, that’s the guy. The rest of the casts feel pretty average. They are Hitomi Nabatame as Reina (Yukiji in Hayate No Gotoku), Saki Nakajima as Miyuki (Dorothy in MAR), Kaori Mizuhashi as Ayumu (Ai in Aria The Animation), Mai Goto as Nina (Mika in Nogizaka Haruka No Himitsu), Atsumi Tanezaki as Chikage (Miu in Blend S), Yuna Taniguchi as Sugiura and Megumi Tateishi as Iida. The rock paced opening theme isn’t that bad, Heat: Moment by Miyuki Hashimoto fits the pacing and genre of the series well. Only had the series lived up to this, this song that is also a bit techno would have been so much better. The ending theme flows to a more light hearted pace despite a generic anime pop music. Circle-Lets Friends is actually a collaboration among veteran singers like Miyuki Hashimoto, CooRie, Yozuca, Sayaka Sasaki, Aki Misato and Minami. With so many of them, at least this song sounds a bit better. I suppose it’s better than having the St Union CB quintet handling it. Just concentrate on your game, girls.

Overall, this is largely a disappointing series. Lacking any sort of real story, unappealing characters and a sport that doesn’t even have much depth to it, it already says a lot on why this won’t likely be getting any sort of continuation. Maybe that is why there is not even any OVA for some quick cash grab even if they put in 100% fanservice that has nothing to do with CB. So if in reality our VR reality reach that advanced stage, I hope CB will not be one of those futuristic games that they will try and adapt in real life. Hence with the disappointment of the anime, I’m sure anybody can see why this sport will not even take off, let alone be famous any time soon. You want a futuristic fantasy fight? Lots of fighting games can satiate that fixation. I’ll still bet my money that Keijo would be a more probable sport to watch and enjoy. No VR technology needed. Just boobs and butts! Sometimes going back to basics is the best ;p.

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…

Ayane’s High Kick

March 1, 2019

After watching the hilarious Jashin-chan Dropkick, for some odd and weird reasons I could not even remember (yes, seriously), I wanted to find another anime that has some sort of ‘dropkick’. I don’t know. Any kind of anime that has the main character landing some awesome kick. Not to say that Jashin had such an awesome dropkick in the first place but more for comical effect. And whether by coincidence, fate or luck, I stumbled upon a very old school anime, Ayane’s High Kick. So reading the synopsis got me interested to at least take a look at the 2 episode OVA that came out way back in 1997. Damn that is over 2 decades ago! I’m feeling so old…

Episode 1
Ayane Mitsui is taking a women’s pro wrestling audition. She looks very flashy with all those moves. Too flashy in fact that she crashes into the judges. It is safe to say that she didn’t get past the qualifiers and doomed are her dreams to fight the current women’s pro wrestling champion, Manami Toyoda. On her way back, this creepy guy starts admiring her beautiful legs. Naturally she kicks him but he blocks. Apparently Kunimitsu Tange is an indie trainer can make her dreams come true if she trains with him. Still desire to be a world champion of women’s pro wrestling, she eagerly joins his shady gym. Well, it’s under the bridge and you have to make the ring yourself. But Ayane’s dreams have a further obstacle as mom wants her to give up this silly pro wrestling dream and concentrate on studying. In class, fellow classmate, Kappei Inagagi has tickets for her to go see a kickboxing show but she dismisses she is not into this kind of combat sport. As Ayane continues to train, doesn’t she find it strange she is doing kickboxing training? Yeah, whatever the coach says, right? Heck, her friend, Kayoko Nakajima is worried that she is being duped but Ayane doesn’t think so as she wasn’t asked to pay anything. Still worried, Kayoko decides to go see for herself. Too bad Kunimitsu makes Kayoko become her training partner. Damn Kayoko isn’t going to last as a punching bag. Soon, Kunimitsu relays the good news that Ayane will be making her debut soon. Shouldn’t Ayane be baffled when he mentions her opponent is a kickboxer? Oh well, she’s going to make her debut so that is all that matters, right? Hence more ‘special’ training as she is made to wear heavy accessories that make her look like a fool in school. Are the teachers this lenient in letting such students get away with their odd clothing? Her mom thinks she has been studying and her brother almost ratted her out unless she buys him some video game to keep his mouth shut.

On the day of Ayane’s debut, Ayane finally realizes she has been duped after entering the ring. Yeah, Kunimitsu never said she was training for pro wrestling and she had numerous chances to check. She wants out but he won’t let her. The match is about to start. She promises to beat him up once she is done with this match. But too bad she gets owned by her more seasoned opponent in the first round. Making things worse, she won’t listen to Kunimitsu’s advice after being deceived. She even tries to do a supplex on her opponent but this illegal move earns her some points deduction. I wonder if Kayoko will get a heart attack watching her friend get beaten up like that. Kappei is here and although surprised to see Ayane, quickly supports her. Also, surprisingly the school’s principal and vice are also here. Old geezer principal is really supporting Ayane, huh? Ayane may have put up some fight but eventually her opponent is better. On the verge of giving up, she realizes she can’t lose here and vows to stay true to her pro wrestling dream. It is then she unleashes her special high kick right on her opponent’s head. Instant KO! Ayane wins in this major upset! The first she do is to beat up Kunimitsu. Here’s to her pro wrestling dream! Meanwhile a top kickboxing b*tch, Sakurako Miyagawa is unamused with Ayane’s performance. Because she stand out a lot before her match. Like, WTF?!

Episode 2
Ayane’s face is on the front page of the kickboxing magazine. She’s literally a mini celebrity now. Kappei wants the autograph of this future kickboxing champion but too bad for breaking the news: Ayane quits kickboxing! But will Kunimitsu let her go? Yeah, he is even seeing trying to bug her to go back to training but she won’t be deceived anymore and runs away! Meanwhile Sakurako has got a bone to pick with Ayane. Although she won her match and extended her consecutive wins (was it 4 or 5?), she is not happy the media hogged Ayane’s match. As Kunimitsu sees a sponsor to set another match, he is told that Sakurako wants to fight Ayane. Kunimitsu adds more fuel to the fire as he says Ayane will only fight those who are strong. This has Sakurako riled up and will call a press conference to challenge Ayane. Kappei bringing a kickboxing magazine to school almost lands Ayane in hot water. Because the vice sees it, he takes this as a chance to expel her (it is against school rules to work part time or appear on TV). Can Ayane fool him it is just someone who looks like her and has her name? Well, principal says you gotta trust your students if they say it isn’t them! But it gets worse as Sakurako organizes a flashy caravan outside the school to challenge Ayane. Ayane is not pleased that Kunimitsu has put words in her mouth and runs all the way there to give her piece of mind. As usual, he twists his words in his smooth talking way. He claims all he said to Sakurako that she needs to fight her. If Ayane isn’t interested, she can tell her she quitted. With the vice having solid proof that Ayane is related to kickboxing and will have her expelled, the principal decides to give her a chance. She will be suspended for 2 weeks and during that time she will fight Sakurako. If Ayane wins, they will let this slide. If she loses, she gets expelled.

With Ayane’s school days on the line, you bet Ayane is going to return to intensive training with Kunimitsu whether she likes it or not. While Ayane’s training are pretty old school, we see Sakurako’s high-tech training. So high tech that their monitors are still using TFT! Haha! Oh my. IS THAT VR TRAINING SHE IS DOING????!!!! OMG!!! That’s 90’s technology for you!!! Kayoko wants Ayane to win because she really wants them to graduate together. And with this, Kunimitsu takes this opportunity to make her the assistant coach. But it does give Ayane more motivation in training. Match day is here and Sakurako starts off with mocking Ayane who is cheaply dressed. In the first round, Sakurako uses her feet to keep Ayane away. Hey, can’t hit when you can’t land a punch, right? Of course this is a tactic to wear her out. So much so, Sakurako’s foot mark is on her belly! For the second round, Sakurako goes on the offensive and lands lots of hard hitting punches. She manages to provoke Ayane so that she could give her the lethal blow. If not for Kayoko screaming about that promise, Ayane might not have gotten up. Ayane continues to take more punches and is only saved by the bell. With Kunimitsu giving crap advice like guts, oh well, what is there Ayane going to lose? In the third round, Ayane is like a different person. So Sakurako tries to get psychological by mocking her pro wrestling dream and Toyoda. Ayane is mad and this is what Sakurako wants. But before Ayane could land her lethal punch, Ayane grabs her hand. She anticipated this. That is when Ayane gives Sakurako her trademark high kick. Not enough to knock her out but before mad Sakurako gets to continue, the referee stops the match. A doctor examines Sakurako and deems she cannot continue and hence it is Ayane’s victory. WTF???!!! I guess that saved her from expulsion. But in the aftermath, Ayane is not pleased because very well knows that Sakurako was the better fighter and she did not actually win the match. No time to sulk because here comes Kunimitsu to get her to train more for her next train. So is Ayane running away from him or is she beginning training? Nah. I think it’s the former.

Rumble Roses: Sekai De Ichiban Tsuyoku Naritai!
Oh man! OH MAN! DAMN! Actually, I was enjoying this mini series a lot. If not for the sudden abrupt ending, it ruined and left a bad taste in my mouth. Because it was never clear why Sakurako was disqualified and hence giving Ayane the win. There was no reason at all! I don’t know if it was some kind of injury or technicality but it sure was a downer for the match to have ended in that way. Even more anti-climactic is how suddenly it ends with the typically coach-wants-player-to-fight-some-more-but-player-can’t-take-it-anymore-and-runs-away. Like as though they realized they have exceeded the allotted time slot and had to suddenly end it. Yeah, should have made another OVA but I suppose they ran out of budget. Because Kunimitsu said he spent his entire savings on the weird training gizmos just for Ayane. Good thing Ayane turned out to be a good investment, albeit not perfect.

Apart from that, I guess everything else was pretty okay. I mean, it’s the 90’s. What do you expect? Everything felt cheap and cheesy and dated. Yeah, this OVA really feels like it came out from that era and time. Whether it is the animation, the characters, the plot, the flow, the action and even the comedy exaggeration style all reeks of that 90’s style trend. I don’t know if it would have been a hit had it been a normal running TV series. With the limited duration, sometimes it feels like cramming everything because you see the plot setter at the start followed by time lapse of Ayane training and then the match in the final half. Oh well, don’t want to sound like I’m b*tching and wanting a training episode to last 3 episodes, then an episode of flashbacks and reminiscence, finally the fight to last 5 episodes and finishing it off with the epilogue of 2 episodes. Yeah…

The characters feel so cliché and dated. Like Ayane who wants to pursue her dreams but gets duped into something else. But can you blame her? She’s not the brightest and guess what? There’s no internet freely available in the 90’s! Maybe in those times, some may confused pro wrestling with kickboxing or use the term interchangeably. But she not quitting shows that her heart somewhere wants to do kickboxing even if her mouth says otherwise? I bet mom must be blind not to see how ripped Ayane’s body is. And then you have Kunimitsu who is as shady as his exterior tells you. He is not coach from Ashita No Joe and does whatever sneaky things he can but I can’t help wonder his true goal in all of this. Sure, Ayane has the most beautiful high kick (in his mind), but what is the ulterior motive of letting her fight? What is the fight that Kunimitsu is fighting for? Otherwise, it makes him look like a bugging and nagging coach. Oh wait. He is.

The other characters just feel okay and contribute more to the side plot. They aren’t anything that significant. Even if Kayoko is an honour student, she is just there to give her best friend some motivation. Her character can be done without but it helps shows that our main character isn’t a loner and has a friend in school to back her up. And this Kappei dude who is a big fan of kickboxing? I guess it’s just a side plot to inadvertently get her in trouble. Otherwise, negligible character. Oh, on a side note, Kappei is the only character whose seiyuu I recognized. I wonder if they purposely named the character after him. You know, Kappei Yamaguchi. Must be coincidence, huh?

Then we have the typically evil school vice who for some reason in this anime is his life’s mission to expel students. Like, WTF?! Students with bad reputation give their school a bad name. So what do you do? Expel them! HUH?! Yeah, he sounds a lot like an antagonist and acts like one because he is the only one who is sorely disappointed when Ayane won her match. And then you have the very carefree principal who is like a secret supporter or something. I can see him throwing down the money and betting on Ayane if she ever goes international. Don’t forget about the rival b*tch. From the way things have ended, it looks like it isn’t over between Ayane and Sakurako from a long shot. They’ll get more chances to rumble if assuming Ayane hasn’t quit by then.

Overall, this is one of those few hidden gems that I have stumbled over the internet. Yeah, the internet is a great treasure trove if you know how to find. Or just get lucky. Of course there’s the dark side too but… Anyway, I really enjoyed watching this OVA despite its lacklustre ending and if you think about it, it’s nothing all that super extraordinary. It’s a shame that this series didn’t really get any more follow up. But it made me think if it eventually got its ‘spiritual successor’ in that Sekai De Ichiban Tsuyoku Naritai (ambiguous scream fest masked as women’s pro wrestling) back in 2013. Nah. I think that is totally different altogether. But for this one, it got high kicked away, never to be heard of again. Ah well. It was fun and short while it lasted. Thanks for the kicks, Ayane!

Anima Yell

February 9, 2019

I thought this season was going to be the season where I took a break from the ubiquitous genre of cute girls doing cute things. Ah yes, I thought I had the will and determination this time seeing that previous seasons of watching such shows have become a bore. But what’s this? A cute girls doing cute things series about cheerleading? Nah. Not into that. Hey wait. Are they cheering on for me to go watch this series? Shucks. Can’t disappoint them now, can I? And that is how I fell into the trap of breaking my resolution and watch Anima Yell. Heh. What a funny name for a cheerleading anime. It’s not even the name of the team or a cheerleading move. Is this a subtle hint to shout out to anime? Hurray! Hurray! Fight on, anime!

Episode 1
During the break, Kohane Hatoya watched a group of cheerleaders in action and now she has decided to become a cheerleader. Well, if she could only first pronounce properly ‘cheer’ instead of ‘chair’. She brags it all to her friend, Uki Sawatari and even made preparations for it. When school starts at Kaminoki and Kohane relates this to her teacher, Inukai only to be shot down because the school has no cheerleading club. Aw, so sad. End of anime. Just kidding. During the opening ceremony, she sees Hizume Arima as the student rep and remembers her as the one she saw at the cheerleading. Can’t give up yet. If there’s no club, form one! Yeah, you need 5 members for that. Plus, Uki isn’t willing to join it. When Kohane accidentally falls off the stairs, Hizume catches her and has no problems since she is light. When Kohane invites her to join the yet to be established cheerleading club, Hizume rejects. Cheerleading is already her past. Thinking Hizume is shy, hence the need for Kohane to get to know her first. Yeah, she follows her around like a stalker! It got on Hizume’s nerves as she tells Uki to even ask her friend to stop it. Then we discover Kohane is actually afraid of heights. Can she really do cheerleading? Hizume relents hearing Kohane’s side of the story after seeing her help others. But when Kohane starts overpraising her, it seems she said something taboo. Hizume is ticked off instead. Later Uki tells Kohane what she heard from rumours. Hizume was part of the cheerleading them and a rising talent but was forced out by other jealous teammates. Hizume feels guilty for saying harsh things to Kohane. Even if she has stopped stalking her, her ‘presence’ can still be felt as other students talk about the good deeds Kohane has done. Just when Hizume is at the crossroads, here is Kohane pulling off her cheerleading stunt by standing on a tree branch and cheering Hizume’s name. Is this to prove she can overcome her phobia? Kohane vows to become as special as her. She completes her stunt by jumping down! Luckily Hizume catches her and then scolds her for doing something this reckless. Hizume somewhat agrees to be her support and base. Hooray! She’s part of the club! Hizume is going to drill all that she knows into her until she finds out that she is still on recruiting spree. This might take a while…

Episode 2
Kohane is participating in a cheerleading competition. You know it’s all just a dream as she falls off from her chair in class… Kohane calls Uki to the rooftop just to show off her cheerleading outfit. She has also bought one for Uki but it looks like she got them from a shady site. Hizume helps Kohane to some exercise but finds that she lacks the necessary to even do the warm ups. Is Kohane trying to find an excuse she was only made for cheering? But Hizume acknowledge that the only thing that Kohane has that is A+ is her smile. As Kohane finds it hard to move about in a jersey, Hizume gives her lighter clothes to wear. With all the exercising, a week later, her muscle starts aching. With Uki explaining she is not physically good, Hizume has this fear she might quit and then she’ll be all alone again. Trauma switch, on. Hence Kohane and Hizume concoct a plan to make Uki join. Uki went along with the flow and only realized too late that they were all making pompoms. Back home, she tries out the pompons she made but forces herself to think she won’t be joining them. Next few scenes we see Kohane bugging Uki. I guess stalking others is the other thing she is good at. With Uki being stubborn, Hizume deduces that perhaps Uki isn’t interested because she has not seen the real thing. Remember, Kohane became passionate about cheerleading only after seeing the real act. So for now, Kohane can only express to her how much she wants to do this with Uki. Kohane confronts Uki and says, “I WANT TO DO IT WITH YOU!!!”. Damn, this is not turning into some lesbian series! Then they set Uki up to watch Hizume do her cheerleading in a proper outfit and music. Captivated? That sealed the deal. Welcome to the club. As for why she was reluctant to join in the first place, it seems she doesn’t like the skirts being too short. Don’t worry. Here’s some very short pants too. She’ll pass.

Episode 3
No cheerleading for today because they have got to study for the test. Of course Kohane hates studying and all she could see is scribbling cheerleading stuffs in her stuffs. Lacking that cheer power, Hizume does some cheerleading to get her strength back. Kohane tries to be considerate and now studies hard. Instead, this switches on Hizume’s trauma that she might like studying and end up quitting cheerleading! WTF?! So engrossed in her studies that Kohane didn’t even notice other people in need of help. Eventually she does help one and Uki is relieved she should just continue to be the usual Kohane. Yeah, everything she learnt now she has forgotten! The tests come and go. So it’s time to hit the club activities? Not for Kohane. It’s the supplementary classes for her. She only gets to join her pals after that. However with no proper place to practice and other clubs kicking them out, they plead to Inukai for some leniency. However she congratulates them for having 3 members as this means they are an association. No funding but will still be given a place for their activities. Looks like they can use the AV room. Why nobody uses it? Because it is rumoured to be haunted! Uki is scared but seeing how Kohane is willing to go back to the rooftop that she is afraid of, Uki compromises and this room will do. Uki must be getting paranoid that somebody is watching them. It doesn’t help that Hizume doesn’t believe in ghosts and Kohane is just super enthusiastic for ghosts to join them! Uki really thought someone is watching them but then they see no one (actually there was but she ran away quickly). But here comes Kon Akitsune and Kotetsu Tatejima, Kohane’s classmates. It seems the former wants some cheerleading help so she could confess to her love. The trio might not have the experience but they’ll help out. I’m not sure about using Hizume’s college brother as a reference but whatever. Eventually they learn that Akitsune’s crush is a female teacher. Awkward silence. But they still help her. Kotetsu feels useless in not being able to help her friend but Uki points out she cares enough not to say something so lightly and it means she’s thinking hard about it. A few days later, Akitsune was able to confess to her love and thanks the trio. So care to join the association? Nah. She’ll join the home economics club. But the trio felt happy that things ended well.

Episode 4
The basketball club requests Kohane to come cheer for their upcoming match. Woah. Kohane just fainted upon hearing that! Luckily Kotetsu went to tell this news to the rest. On the way out, the rest heard Kotetsu in a dilemma whether to join them or not. However it is not wise to push her. Then they hear piano sounds from the AV room. While Uki is scared thinking it is a ghost, Kohane thinks of inviting the ghost to join! It is discovered that Kotetsu is playing it. She got permission to play here since it would be too loud at her home. So she can’t piano a piano? The trio try to coax her to join but she feels embarrassed of performing in front of others. So how does she play her piano recital? Well, she loses her composure… The trio head back to discuss the cheer uniforms. The ones online are too expensive so it is best to make their own. Yeah, if they know how to sew. Don’t worry. Thank the internet for samples and guides! At the basketball match, the trio make pompons enough for their school. Kohane starts off with a weird introduction of them and it just confuses the lot. Is it embarrassing? Kotetsu who thought they were cool probably is now more embarrassed to join them. The match begins and Kaminoki is losing. Time for our cheer girls to do their job. They’re not alone, though. They rally their school to help cheer for the team. This has Kotetsu realize that cheering isn’t done alone. With the power of their cheer side (I don’t see the opponents having their own cheer squad), Kaminoki is able to win by 1 point on the very last second! Woah! Miracle! Thanks to the power of cheering! In the end, Kotetsu might still have her reservations about cheerleading but she still wants to try out. So Kohane has been hiding her application form waiting for this moment? They learn her first name and because it sounds so manly, the reason why she doesn’t like it as she feels she doesn’t live up to its strong sense. She might not be confident now but with the rest supporting her, she’ll get by.

Episode 5
A welcome party is held for Kotetsu. In return, Kotetsu runs down all the way to the AV room to play the piano. She needs this stamina training. Kotetsu may not like to be called by her first name with Kohane bugging, it soon becomes normal. Hizume has the girls do some simple warm up exercises before going on to display different types of basic arm motions. And of course, put on your greatest smile. Soon, Kotetsu’s uniform is complete although it’ll take some time for her to get used to it. Then they get a request from the home economics club. It isn’t actually a cheer request but they want them to help test taste and decide the menu for their upcoming cooking contest. Looks like the rumours have spread that making a request to the cheer association can have your dreams come true. Hey, Akitsune was only 1 wish, right? Yeah, but at least it still means 100% successful rate. Anyway, Kohane is a glutton as she eagerly chows down the several dishes. With all their opinions gathered, to thank them for this, they are given another tasty dish. Actually this was requested by the basketball club who requested them to do something to thank the cheer association as they can’t do anything in return for their help. After Kohane devours the gratitude dish, she runs all the way down to the basketball court to express her thanks. How? With some cheering of course.

Episode 6
The cheer association has another cheer request to perform as the opener for a local festival. Since it is an open stage, the time is right for them to do some simple stunts. So they’re going to try with this base formation and even if Kohane will be standing on their thighs, is this even enough to constitute fear of heights?! The quartet practice and get a feel of this formation. Everything is looking good and Kohane gets too excited that she ruins the formation by getting up when everyone is not ready yet. Crash! Thankfully no injuries. Otherwise Hizume would really start getting traumatic about nobody left in the association. A few more days of practice and Kohane is so desperate for the day not to rain that she creates a giant size teruteruboshi. Because of that it looks like a man who got hanged! Spooky rumours are about to run wild again on the AV room… On the main day, the quartet get a feel of the place as they attend the rehearsal. You thought Kohane was so excited that she forgot to bring her cheer outfit but actually she is already wearing it. After the rehearsal, Kotetsu still has doubts if she did it all incorrectly. Allow Kohane to spout some great advice. The great sky. The great sun. The great weather… What?! WTF?! With Hizume pointing out it is all their first time doing this, Kotetsu calms down. When the actual cheer gets underway, Kotetsu doesn’t feel nervous and like the rest of her comrades do a great display of cheering. So great that Kohane bloopers the final part and falls flat on her face. I guess that is negligible considering the rest of the performance was great. Even Inukai sings praises for them but will not go so far to oblige Kohane’s demands to join the association. She just doesn’t know when to give up, does she?

Episode 7
Kotetsu fears she has become fat and tries to exercise more. This is because she is afraid she won’t be able to support Kohane as the base. Hizume does some reverse psychology that if she is not satisfied with her weight means what she has been doing is not enough. And if she is not strong willed, maybe they can stop bringing snacks to the club. I think Kotetsu is going into overdrive exercising mode. They ask why Kohane has fear of heights since she never had this before. She relates how she jumped off the top of the swing thinking she could fly. The next thing she knew she was in hospital surrounded by her family and friends who were so worried. She realized it was her fault and it then developed into a phobia. Hizume suggests visiting a cheer shop and you can see the light in Kohane’s eyes. There’s a shop specializing in that?! If not for her friends, I think Kohane would have bought everything even if she didn’t have the budget. After buying pompom materials, this is part of Hizume’s plan to ask them for a request. She feels she has a hard time fitting in with everyone in her class and that they are avoiding her. Hizume follows Kohane’s suggestions to do some cheering with her pompoms. Although it attracts her classmates, they feel weird out if something is wrong with her. It’s like they’re keeping their distance. Finally when Kohane jumps in and decides to help, now all the other girls get jealous and tell her not to hog Hizume?! WTF?! Since when is she their property?! So now Kohane is their common enemy as they try to get closer to Hizume?! Yeah, there’s a few girls who become as close as her bodyguard! More and more girls ‘borrow’ Hizume so looks like she won’t be spending time with the cheer association so soon. When the rest return to their clubroom, they see a curse sign on the door. Finally that girl who keeps spying on them makes her official appearance. Kana “Hanawa” Ushiku accuses them as villains and that Hizume is too good for this association.

Episode 8
Everyone is puzzled Hanawa keeps referring to Hizume as her senpai. Aren’t they all the same age? She goes on to point out and complain their cheering techniques at the festival. When Hizume arrives, Hanawa gets embarrassed and runs away. Hizume does remember Hanawa from her old squad but barely. As she joined after Hizume, the reason why she refers to her as her senpai. With the basketball team seeking their cheerleading help again, this time Hizume suggests for all of them to come up and put together a choreograph trick. As they practise, Uki and Kotetsu notice Hanawa spying on them. This goes on for a few days until Hanawa summons Uki to the rooftop to complain. Apparently this b*tch isn’t happy for whatever reason and as she is about to storm off, trips and falls over Uki. Uki might have saved her fall but in exchange, twisted her ankle. Now that Uki is out of the picture, Hizume thinks of adjusting their routine but a remorseful Hanawa decides to replace her. Hanawa has been doing some practice by herself ever since she quit the old cheerleading club. Although she gave excuse that high school was getting busy, the real fact is that it wasn’t worth it staying in a club without Hizume. Kaminoki’s cheer girls strut their stuff and Hanawa is quite energetic and a league of her own. Of course Hizume compliments her (typical fan girl break down when crush senpai praises) but also apologizes for not knowing her ex-teammates and not paying attention to those around her. Hanawa gets motivated but at the same time is trekking real close to being a personal Hizume stalker… Wanna smell her hair, eh? With renewed motivation, Hanawa now cheers with even more energy. She vows to always cheer with Hizume. Thanks to that ‘power’, Kaminoki’s basketball team wins! With Hanawa officially joining them, Hizume hopes she could stop calling her senpai and by each other’s first names. This might take a while to get used to. Practice of first name calling will resume after Hanawa wakes up from her fainting.

Episode 9
Hanawa is trying to ignore Kohane treating her like a ‘celebrity’ to come to the club. Now that they have 5 members, this means they have upgraded from an association to a club. I guess they’ll get a little more perks. All they need now is an advisor and Kohane goes to bug Inukai. As expected, she gives lots of excuses why she won’t. Too tired. Don’t know much about cheerleading. You know the usual. Until Kohane accidentally ‘threatens’ that she found out from another teacher that she used to do some weird dance and has DVD ‘evidence’ of it did Inukai agree to join! Wow. That worked. She’s going to need a lot of cheering. Right off the bat they have another request. A parent who saw them cheer at the basketball game now has the same request for a football match. When it is learnt they will be cheering for the football team, Victories, Uki doesn’t seem too happy. Her brother, Akane is on that team and recently he hates girly stuffs. Must be that puberty thingy. Plus, she never told him she is in cheerleading. Back home, Akane is already grumpy because at today’s practice some annoying girl cheered on them. It wasn’t Kohane but still he felt annoyed. This makes Uki awkward. She thinks of telling him now because eventually he will find out but he thinks she is part of the running club and wants hints on how to run fast. There goes her chance. So she’s reading about track now? There are many other chances for her to subtly hint she is in cheerleading but all failed. Until he berates them as annoying and all they do is flash their pantsu as distraction. Uki snaps back to keep his eyes open tomorrow and he’ll eat his own words. Hope she doesn’t regret saying that later… Next day, Akane is surprised to see Uki part of the cheerleading team. However Akane is not starting and only warming the bench. As the game starts, Akane notices the energetic exuberance from the cheerleading girls. Impressed? Even during halftime they continue their cheering. Akane starts in the second half and he notices the girls continue to cheer despite being tired. And the magic from all the cheering has Victories end with no less a victory! Before brother and sister could reconcile, Kohane butts in and is impressed with how cool he is. He keeps denying as everybody notices his behaviour quite similar to Uki. Is Uki mad because of that statement or is Akane being hogged by Kohane too much?

Episode 10
This time the manga club is asking the cheer club for help. Actually, their job is only to watch over them. If they fall asleep or get distracted by something else, here, use this ruler and smack them hard on the head! Yeah, the deadline is tomorrow better get those hands moving. Fast! In addition to watching them, the cheer girls are also made to do some pose to give the manga girls some inspiration. So you can tell some of them getting real nervous and flustering like Uki holding hands with Kohane and Hanawa being hugged behind by Hizume. Eventually the manga girls achieve their goal. As Kohane is still not fully cured from her phobia, Hizume thinks of holding a training camp. Thanks to her father’s friend, they can hold one in a dojo near the sea. The girls rejoice. I guess they need their much needed break. Except for Inukai. She’s complaining that she had to be dragged here. Oh, so you want to go into details about the contract about this? Hizume has an ‘agenda’ for holding this training camp. She wants to get close to Hanawa as she feels she is always putting some distance. Yes, she has the wrong idea Hanawa hates her. Even more so when Hizume tries to be friendly, Hanawa gets flustered and further gives her the wrong idea that she doesn’t like her. I don’t know if it looks like harassment to a point Hanawa passes out from happiness. With this going nowhere, Hizume explains her plan to get closer to Hanawa. Though the rest understand, maybe she should put some distance for now because the close proximity is frying Hanawa up! There is an event tomorrow that the matron would love them to join and liven up things. So to help in their training, Hizume suggests running on the beach. Too bad girls, you’re not going to have fun. Despite wearing their swimsuits, they look so out of place in sneakers! We have more Hizume-Hanawa antics. Still shy to get closer to each other. Maybe the only way to get closer is to put sunscreen lotion on each other? Whatever. At least they broke the ice.

Episode 11
What’s this? Kohane trying to do a brave dive from a cliff? Not if Uki stops her and tells her she might die! Even if this is the lowest cliff for beginners? Please don’t say that to the rest waiting in line. Hizume suggests practising the shoulder straddle technique. Kohane thinks doing it in the water will help but since it is slippery and she belly flops… Ouch… Back at the inn, they need a vaulting horse to help Kohane practice with this. So they wake up Inukai just for her to become a vaulting horse. Hey, make yourself useful for once. Too bad it didn’t last long. Practising the technique, not only Uki is nervous having Kohane’s thighs around her head but Kohane is already experiencing her phobia. Maybe try again. But during the festival, the girls pull it off perfectly. The power of trust? The girls continue to work part time to earn some money (thank goodness the other girls cover for clumsy Kohane or they might have to work longer) to buy uniforms for the upcoming tournament. Because all of them are so bad in sketching, the clerk can’t make out their design. Maybe start from scratch? As they start choosing the colours, the Nekoya twins of Suzuko and Tamako come in. They are Hizume’s previous cheerleading mates. They sound brutal that they are grateful for Hizume’s departure because ever since she left, they are now the focus! So don’t come back! Just kidding. The twins are very in sync with each other but too bad this means they are not in sync with the rest. This is because Hizume too was once in a world of her own and they wonder if she has changed. Since their team are also participating in the next tournament, this is the best chance to assure Hizume’s ex-teammates she is doing well. Last brutal roast from the twins that her ex-team dropped in standards after she left but rose up when the twins took her place! Will Hizume recover from this? Too bad all their hearts are not in sync as each of them choose a different uniform colour. Eventually if they all decided to go with Hizume’s navy blue, they have their excuses. Hearts not as one. With this out of the way, it’s back to more practice.

Episode 12
And suddenly the tournament day is here. The Kaminoki girls arrive at the venue and they get to see the middle school division strutting their stuffs first. Wow. So good. Can they even match up to them? When it is almost their turn, after they get dressed, it is that awkward moment of Hizume meeting her old cheer club comrades. Her ex-friend admits they never realized how important Hizume was until she was gone as she was the one holding them up. Hizume also takes this chance to apologize for only thinking about herself and not paying attention. It is safe to say that both sides have made their peace and can look forward to each other’s performance. Before their turn, there is a photo shoot of the group. Strangely, Kohane puts on a weird smile. Is she nervous? Because smile is usually her best and natural thing. Then we have more motivation talk from the girls, blah, blah, blah. Time to go out and shine. Kohane is still worried. She worries she will fail and put all their efforts go to waste. Looks like that is about to come true as she slips but thankfully, the rest got her back. They remind her that they will always support her. With that, our girls continue to cheer like they have always been doing. In the aftermath, it seems our Kaminoki cheer club girls didn’t make it past the preliminaries. Don’t be sad. Statistics show that half the entrants only started cheerleading this year. There’s always next time, right? Later all their family and friends gather to congratulate a great performance they put up. Now it is Inukai’s turn to treat them but she realizes the girls are eating into her budget. Please don’t be a cheapskate… With Kohane thanking everyone for cheering with her, looks like there is a list of clubs that want their cheer spirit. And there is also another tournament coming up for next semester. Okay, girls. You know what to do. And they continue to flawlessly continue to cheer for all!

Cheer Joshi: Spirit Booster
Gimme an “It’s”. Gimme an “O”. Gimme a “Ver”. What’s that spell?! IT’S OVER! YAY! Oh yeah. I’m definitely boosted by all the cheering by the time the anime ends. Not! Haha. The irony of almost being bored to death and their cutie pie cheering didn’t do anything special to make me anticipate the next episode. Oh girls, sorry you have to do harder to cheer me up. My standards are so high that you have to be level 100 to make an impact in my frozen heart. Haha! But I have to admit that I wasn’t totally bored. There are some entertaining parts. But yeah, the girls need to try a lot harder if they want to break down this wall of mine.

As usual, the storyline isn’t anything much except for a bunch of girls trying to do what they love most together and in this series in particular, cheerleading. Heck, I even thought there was not going to be even some sort of regional tournament (like many of such genres usually do), but they leave it relatively too late to announce that. Even so, at that point I can’t see the relevancy and importance of this cheerleading tournament. It just came and go like that. Don’t expect them to pass on their first try, right? After all, the season is going to end and with what has been built up in this season, if there is an excuse to make another season, they have some sort of plot to go along with. Another tournament, that is. Heck, it was only like a while ago that they just picked out their uniform, right? But for now, building a new cheer club is utmost importance for these girls and season.

Having said that, hence the characters are the ones playing a pivotal role in keeping the anime cute and fresh. Well, if you ask me over the years of watching the same genre (Hinako Note, Slow Start, Comic Girls, just to name a few), you will somewhat expect more or less the same. At this point for me, they aren’t anything exciting but still their unique and quirky personalities are enough to entertain me and at least make me sit through the dozen episodes.

As usual for main character Kohane, she has to be the kind who is in her own world and in her own pace. That is why she is annoying. That is why she is cute. That is why she is funny. It is strange to think that she saw cheerleading once and decided this is going to be her life passion. So to say that in her entire life, nothing else moved her except this. Imagine had she seen something else even more passionate than cheerleading, would she have gone down that path instead? Say, porn! Haha! But thinking about it, it’s not really that strange despite me saying so for this behaviour to happen because now I remember how I was so enthralled in watching anime the first time and decided to make it my hobby. Yeah… So Kohane acting a bit like a retard is what gives this series its charm and many funny moments somewhat rely on this. A point to ponder: As Kohane is one of the shortest in the team, I wonder if she grew a bit taller, would she be afraid of heights?! Yeah, she probably can’t stand it (pun intended) and will forever sit in a wheelchair. Worst case scenario!

Then the other end of the spectrum is Hizume. Also quirky in her own sense but not as lively outburst as Kohane. Just like how Kohane’s running joke is her fear of heights (aside from mispronouncing certain ‘important’ cheerleading words), Hizume’s running joke is the fear of people leaving her cheer club. She often gets misconception easily and almost goes into panic attack, hence the need to pacify and do stuffs to have the members stay. This insecurity stems from her social awkwardness during her earlier life since she was in a world and pace of her own. Now that she is trying to change and be considerate, hence her strange thinking that results in some mild awkwardness.

I somewhat believe Uki exists to play the straight (wo)man since as the more down to earth type, she is the kind of character who rebukes others (but Kohane mostly) when they somewhat go out of line (cue for comedy). Also, with a club with only girls as cheerleaders, some sort of mild yuri subplot is going to happen. So Uki is doing this all just to support Kohane and be close to her. The same can be said for Hanawa for Hizume but she is more of the tsundere type and Kohane’s ‘natural’ rival. For now it looks like one-sided crushes so can we cheer on for their love to come to their realization? Kotetsu completes the line-up as a shy girl trying to boost her self-confidence. So far she is doing a good job. Just like how Kohane is facing her acrophobia. If you ask me, it’s all in the mind. If you’re not too conscious about it, you’ll breeze by it without even knowing it was there. Otherwise, why do you think the girls were able to pull off perfectly their stunts during real performances on stage?

It feels like Inukai is a character that doesn’t need to exist but you know, every club needs to have a teacher to supervise as part of the rules so she’s the kind of character who really feels she really shouldn’t be here doing all this. Yeah, the strange irony in that. Her face screams “I wish I wasn’t here”. She gets dragged into the cheer club’s pace and it’s like she’s doing them a favour. There goes her sleep or whatever me-time. If the cheer club’s charm is so effective, maybe they could help cheer on for her and blow away her blues. The Nekoya twins appeared very late in the season and perhaps to give our cheer girls a much needed rivalry boost. Because how else are you going to improve if you don’t have a rival to overcome? They sound like the b*tch type but again, they too are in their own world and pace. They think the world revolves around them. What is with these girls in this anime always going at their own pace?

Speaking about the cheerleading club’s effective cheering boost, so far their effective rate is 100% and with rumours being spread around that their cheering guarantees victory (despite being very baseless), you wonder how long their streak will go. So the irony is that if the upcoming tournament, are they considered cheering for themselves? Will they have other outside parties cheering for them and if so, will that jinx their luck? Quite the irony if the cheerleaders in competition has supportive cheerleaders from the outside cheering on them. In no time these girls would get requests to cheer on Japan’s national football team and win the World Cup!

Just like many of such anime series in this sort of particular genre, there isn’t much heavy focus on the theme. So if you are hoping to learn a lot more about cheerleading, you’d be better off doing your research online at dedicated and special websites. Here are just the simple basis of cheerleading. As the cheer girls are still mostly rookies, hence you won’t see them pulling off really dangerous and elaborate stunts yet. At least not until Kohane fully overcomes her height phobia.

While the art and drawing are your typical cute and kawaii type with everything looking bright and clean, there wasn’t anything for me to comment here except for the character designs. I have no problem with it but when I first looked at the bunch of main characters, I was wondering why they resemble so closely to the cast of characters in Comic Girls! Did those girls give up on their dreams to become a mangaka and now go into cheerleading instead? Or did they hop onto another anime in hopes they would stay relevant?! Either way, you can see the resemblance of Kohane in Kaos (even their general personality are almost similar), Hizume in Ruki, Uki in Koyume and that basketball senpai in Katsuki. This feels more than just coincidence because even Inukai as their advisor is somewhat similar and equivalent to Ririka! Suspicious… This anime is made by Doga Kobo who brought to us New Game, Gabriel Dropout, Himouto! Umaru-chan, YuruYuri and Love Lab. So if you wonder why the characters look somewhat similarly cute, they’re all from the same anime studio.

Didn’t recognize any seiyuus in particular in this series as many of them are unknowns and do not have a long repertoire of voice acting roles to their name. They are Yuka Ozaki as Kohane (Asuka in BanG Dream),Yuina Yamada as Hizume (Mirasa in Kuromukuro), Mikako Izawa as Uki (Mamori in Valkyrie Drive: Mermaid), Tomori Kusunoki as Kotetsu (Miki in Slow Start), Haruka Shiraishi as Hanawa (Asirpa in Golden Kamuy), Eriko Matsui as Inukai (Isuzu in Log Horizon), Aimi Tanaka as Akane (titular character in Himouto! Umaru-chan), Risae Matsuda as Suzuko (Minael in Mahou Shuojo Ikusei Keikaku) and Satsumi Matsuda as Tamako (Jinko Nana Maru San Batsu).

The opening and ending themes are sung by the main quintet of the series, Jump Up Yell and One For All respectively. They are worthy of being a cheerleading song in its own right with all its exuberance and liveliness. There are also a bunch of insert songs that serves as the cheerleading songs the girls use for practice or during events. I didn’t really give much attention to them since they sound equally energetic and fit the atmosphere.

Overall, everybody now gimme an “O”! Gimme a “K”! Gimme an “A”! Gimme a “Y”! O-K-A-Y! Yay! Those are my cheerful sentiments for this moe blob series. Simplistic (or even non-existent) plot, cute characters and cute visuals. Like my general answers these days for this particular kind of genre, it’s all the same but presented in a different way to give off its own appeal. It’s not awful but nothing that special to me since I am not into cheerleading before and after watching this series. Yeah, I’m not really into a lot of things in this world. But turn it into anime with cute girls and you can bet that there is a high chance it will catch my attention. Just need to grab a chair and watch it. Hmm… That cheer and chair pun doesn’t seem to work here… (I blame Kohane for making it look like a running joke). Cheer-io!

Hanebado

December 22, 2018

It’s about time! About time they made an anime about badminton. Heh. I suppose this is the most popular racquet sport in my country. But I believe this timely anime adaptation wasn’t made because of Malaysia’s current number one. Coincidentally, Japan too has a current rising star in the badminton world and with China’s domination and grip on the sport slipping, I have a feeling there is no better time for a badminton series. However Hanebado isn’t going to showcase the rise of a certain Japanese badminton shuttler. Just another one of those high school sports club who is the underdog when you know, the cliché new player with talent joins them and now they have a chance to advance beyond. Lots of side drama to boot…

Episode 1
It’s that time when you start questioning the things you’re doing. Like Nagisa Aragaki. Tired and desperate. Eventually she lost her badminton match without scoring a point! OMG! 21-0! Ayano Hanesaki and Elena Fujisawa are new high school students of Kitakomachi and they make friends with Noriko Miyura. She suggests they all join the tennis club because the captain, Akifumi Saionji is such a hot guy as well as other favourable stuffs. Let me guess. You wanna date this dude? Yup. She even confirms it that what’s the use of being female if you can’t land a guy like that! We take a detour to see a more gloomy badminton club. Obviously Nagisa is practising so hard like a robot but she is also taking out on her club members and some are already at their limits. Is this some torture club? Club vice captain, Riko Izumi talks to her about losing current members in addition of not getting new ones but Nagisa isn’t listening. With the Spartan training continues, I guess that is it for some members. Those who cannot take it anymore, confront Nagisa. Perhaps they’re just waiting for her to say it. If you can’t take the heat, beat it. And that’s what Yuka and co did. As Nagisa is jogging, she is shocked to see Ayano trying out in the tennis club. Yes, this was the girl that defeated her 21-0. Before she could do anything, this weirdo, Kentarou Tachibana climbs over the fence and is singing praises all Ayano. He wants her to play badminton. What kind of guy suddenly touches a girl’s hands?! Is this a new way to pick up girls? Thanks to Elena her eternal protector, she is spared from further ‘molestation’. From Ayano’s movements and her hand blisters, Tachibana can tell she used to play badminton. It’s no surprise Ayano runs away. Enough shock for today. Badminton club advisor, Miyako Taroumaru introduces her ‘secret weapon’ that would help the club: Tachibana! Not only he is the alumnus of the badminton club, but played in the Olympics! But… I never heard of him. Yeah, he was selected to play but got injured and had to pull out. So technically he didn’t play… So to bounce back from that failure and play in the Olympics, he is going to turn them into gold medallist material. I have to ask why this particular school anyway? Just then, Elena drags Ayano in. She believes she should be playing badminton. Ayano still feels playing badminton as pointless. This makes Nagisa’s blood boil but Riko tells Ayano otherwise. Nagisa wants to play a match with her.

Episode 2
Ayano is actually playing quite well until halfway some trauma kicks up and she just quits. Nagisa continues to practice tirelessly. Tachibana talks to Ayano about her flexible wrist and she being naturally left handed is a big advantage. He would have sounded more convincing if he isn’t prone to touching her hands! As Nagisa plays Riko, she keeps thinking her smash is her ultimate weapon. Eventually she narrowly beats Riko. Nagisa and Ayano team up in a doubles practice match. They often bump into each other and Nagisa always blames her for getting in her way. Tachibana has Nagisa switch with Riko. It seems Riko could make judgments that allow them to play perfectly as a team. Hence Tachibana tells Nagisa that it is this judgment she is lacking. Nagisa isn’t happy either. She thinks this is just part of his plan to make his number one look good and that is what talentless people are for. To aid that. A junior even talks to Nagisa about how she envies her being taller, stronger and talented. She is just in a slump right now. Nagisa believes she doesn’t rely on talent. Then a confrontation with Yuka about taking out on her juniors. Not that Nagisa would want to hear from a quitter. Yuka also claims she envied her not because of her talent but because of her wholehearted love for badminton. Tachibana has Nagisa practice with her. From her weak movements, he can tell why she is in a slump. Nagisa too keeps pondering why her smashes aren’t cutting it. Tachibana returns it with an easy trick shot. Lesson time. She thinks being tall and using her jump smash is her advantage. But being tall makes her heavier, hence she needs to work out her legs more. She won because of hard work. She loves badminton, does she not? Now that her mind is clear, first thing she does is to apologize to all her members. They make a vow to get through the inter-high tournament.

Episode 3
Elena remembers Ayano used to love badminton. Until one day she just quit. She learnt her mom just left. Noriko is devastated. Initially she had a date with Saionji but that guy called to cancel it. What is she going to do with those extra movie tickets? She wants to ask Ayano to accompany her but Elena tells her she has club activities. Is she now her personal coach? And then ‘ditches’ her to join Noriko? Yeah, she looks so bored. At the end of the day, Elena stumbles into Nagisa jogging. The latter asks why Ayano quit badminton since she was perfect during the junior nationals. Elena agrees to figure it all out. During practice, this snobbish girl, Kaoruko Serigaya drops in to play with Ayano. Can she from another school just waltz in like that? Kaoruko is good but Ayano is obviously sloppy and loses badly. Kaoruko is very disappointed and leaves, reminding Ayano she can never beat her. With that, Ayano has not been going to school for a few days. Tachibana and Nagisa go pay a visit to her home. She’s not in but her grandparents are. They know Ayano’s problem is badminton related. Tachibana is shocked to know that Uchika Shindou is Ayano’s mom. She won 10 straight wins at the Japanese nationals. But I never heard of her on the world stage… Meanwhile Elena finds Ayano sulking at the playground (I suppose it’s a place where she goes when she is having troubles). This was what happened. Ayano was supposed to play a match with Kaoruko. The latter was sick and wanted to play on the same terms. Guess what? She forcefully transferred some of her illness to her!!! WTF???!!! Hence Ayano was also as ill as her on match day but lost. That was when Uchika left. She believes because she lost to Kaoruko is the reason she left and has never been back since. Ayano didn’t give up and became better at badminton hoping she would come back. But here’s the real kicker. She saw an article of her mom trained and raised a new badminton prodigy who then won some crown! It was when she realized she has lost all reason to play badminton. Nagisa isn’t going to let her off easily yet. Practising hard to beat her, she wants them to play a game. Right now. With everyone else joining in and you can tell Ayano getting her love back for badminton, it goes without saying that Ayano and Elena soon hand in their application to officially join the badminton club.

Episode 4
Summer training camp. It is a joint training stint with Frederica Girls School. A local powerhouse. Ayano volunteers to do some errands at the convenience store but thanks to Nagisa’s weird map, she got lost. Just like this Danish girl too, Connie Christensen. They manage to find their way there as Connie reveals her goal in this training camp is to beat a certain someone. Guess who? Yup, look at Connie’s face now upon learning who Ayano is. Then it is Ayano’s turn to be a little surprised to find Connie is a badminton player of Frederica when they return to camp. Yeah, their talk was so vague, it could have meant anything. With Kitakomachi and Frederica having one a game each, looks like it is down to this important match. A doubles match between Ayano-Riko and Connie-Hina Tagajo. Connie warns Tagajo not to interfere. But when Tagajo returns a shot, Connie subsequently stands there and not play at all. If she is going to beat that someone, she will do it by herself. So if Tagajo wants to play them herself, be her guest. Yeah, whatever Frederica problems, not Kitakomachi problem. Play on. They take a huge lead until Tagajo admits she cannot beat them herself. So switching means Connie will play them herself? Connie has her speed and high jump and claws her way back in no time. And she is disappointed in the way Ayano is playing. So boring. Tachibana then realizes Connie is that young prodigy Danish player who won multiple world titles at 16 years old. But here is the real kicker. Connie starts to tie her hair that resembles so much like Ayano’s mom. And Connie knows all about Ayano as her ‘big sister’. But she didn’t know how she looked like?

Episode 5
Connie wins the set by a mile and mocks Ayano she is not Uchika’s real daughter. You mean by blood also doesn’t count? Ayano is on the road to depression but thank goodness for Riko’s words of motivations about being partners, right? Tachibana suggests the next set for Riko to defend the front near the net while Ayano covers a wider area at the back. This is because Connie’s greatest weapon comes from her powerful high vantage smash. With this method, Ayano-Riko is able to pick up some points and return some of Connie’s shots. Blonde b*tch still think she can do this herself so why is she surprised when Ayano returns them? On the match point to Connie’s advantage, Connie sprain her muscle. She couldn’t return the hit until Tagajo steps in for her to win it for Frederica. Blonde b*tch still not impressed and limped away alone. The drama doesn’t end on that side. Ayano too is b*tching she didn’t lose. She blames her racquet’s string broke at the last moment and Tagajo stepped in. So she really thought it was 2 against 1? Since she is sulking, no sympathy points from Sora Isehara who lectures her how she came and go from the club as she likes. In short, stop making excuses. To show Connie is not 100% demon, she is also in depression but mainly because she feels bad on how she treated Tagajo. Too bad everybody was hiding and listening so Connie has to live up to her words to atone. So bath together is the answer? I guess Connie is only a demon when it comes to badminton. Otherwise she’s just a typical girl. Now everybody starts molesting her in the bath. The only place where it is fair game for all? Before all depart home, Ayano tries to ask Connie more on her mom. However Connie trolls her. Something about how Uchika saved her when she was all alone and is the most important person to her. And then this: Even if Ayano manages to find her place in the team, it is all meaningless if mama doesn’t acknowledge her. Trauma switch on. Oh, haven’t you heard? Uchika is returning to Japan soon. And so Ayano being her usual depressed girl on the way home. But something in her might have snapped as she now spots those crazy eyes and psycho herself that she doesn’t need mom! Oh sh*t. I fear she might go on a killing spree on everyone on this bus.

Episode 6
The tournament is around the corner. Miyako is more concerned of the new uniform the badminton club should be getting. And here is the matchup list. Nothing smells like drama because Riko’s first round opponent is Nozomi Ishizawa from Zushi Sogo High School. Yeah, once old friends who went to the same school. That gloom on her face must really tell something has happened, huh? Heck, why do their eyes have to meet when they get there? Why is Riko being shunned by her? Oh, we’re here just to play badminton. Miyako is eager for the girls to put on their new uniform. Even made extra special as she sewn the school name on it. It’s got to be worth it. The matches get underway and we see our usual characters breezing through. Hence the drama focus is on Riko-Nozomi match. Riko is nervous and loses a few points. With some motivation from Tachibana, she gets serious to plot her strategy. It worked for a while when Riko has found her weakness and exploits her backhand that she hates to use. But it is back to Nozomi dominating again with her cut smash. Riko then tries to play long rallies because it’s like she knew Nozomi was being told by her dick coach to quickly finish her low level opponent off and to conserve energy for the next match. After a long drawn out match, eventually Riko lost in straight sets. Damn her young siblings are crying. Heck, even Elena is crying on her behalf! But Riko is just so sunshine face and asserts her love for badminton. But when she is alone and reality sinks in, she starts crying her heart out. Yup, she wants to play more but too bad, this is her last year in high school. Guess what? Ayano’s mom is here and is looking for her! Meanwhile Ayano is being confronted by Kaoruko who gives her a handkerchief. It is so that she can wipe the tears and snot after she losses! What a f*cking b*tch!

Episode 7
But Ayano isn’t scared. She replies she has worked hard to grind her into the dirt! Maybe she is the one who needs the handkerchief? Kaoruko is so confident that she goes to request personally to Tachibana that they could talk to each other after the match. Yeah… Suddenly once she steps into the court, her cute face turns into a freaking serious one. Did they turn her into Jojo?! Kaoruko thinks Ayano is easy meat. Until her speed just blows her away. Didn’t foresee that, huh? Heck, even her teammates are mocking her about her earlier cockiness comments that she has visualized the pattern to victory. Well, better adapt fast because Ayano has raced to 5-0! And when Kaoruko scores a point, it’s like she’s won the whole thing. To cut it short, Ayano wins the first set. The girls play at faster pace for the second set with Kaoruko hoping it would wear her down so that she could do her tricky cross cut move. After all that drama and tension, Kaoruko lost the set. Oh here comes Ayano’s reply now: You need a handkerchief? Kaoruko retires to the locker room. A bit awkward with her teammates. Everybody is just stunned or in no mood. And of course, Kaoruko cries alone. What do you mean you almost got her? Sure, the scores were close but you were the one dancing in her palms. Oh well, she doesn’t have to cry alone since her lackey, Miki Sasashita also cries with her if not even harder. I think it’s to make us have some sympathy for Kaoruko because now we see the real b*tch in Ayano as she mocks her opponent as pathetic and disappointing. Even if Elena disapproves of disrespecting her opponent, Ayano has a point because winning is all that matters.

Episode 8
Nagisa’s next opponent is Nozomi. Oh, some short flashback as to why they are ‘rivals’. From the same middle school, it was Nagisa that was supposed to get a scholarship to Zushi Sogo but somehow Nozomi got it. And everyone knew Nagisa was the better player. So until today, they’re like both hurt from that? Nozomi’s coach seems to have found Nagisa’s weakness. She has an injury on her knee and wants her to wear her down by making her run around. Meanwhile we see Ayano playing her opponent. Ayano must be so tough that her opponent got a little injured and Ayano assumes she has already won. When her opponent insists she can still go on, Ayano with that b*tch look tells her what is the purpose of doing so. Eventually she forfeited. Might as well withdraw than continue to play with such b*tch. Once more Elena is not pleased with Ayano acting this way but Ayano doesn’t care as long as she wins. Nozomi still got bad blood with Nagisa that she doesn’t want to shake her hand? During the match, Nozomi’s coach is just damn noisy, shouting combos and formation for Nozomi to do. Double the annoyance with Ayano criticizing Nagisa’s play like as though she knows it all. Flashback shows Nagisa could be bad in judging in weather the shuttlecock is out of bounds and hence every shot she returns, hence contributing to her wearing out her knee. Even when Nozomi tries to play on her own and wins a point, her coach chastises her for not following orders! Nagisa gets some motivation to find her own way to play by Tachibana. It isn’t long before she finds her form and scores successive points. This puts Nozomi under pressure and confused. She remembers the Spartan training her coach always gave her. She sees Nagisa’s determination to beat her even if it is risking it all. With the first set going to Nagisa, looks like Nozomi’s coach is going to blow his top again but this time Nozomi talks back. She always blamed everything on him but when tried to play her own style, it was less than impressive. She wants to continue finding it. Hence her coach finally shuts up as Nozomi plays the way she wants and she looks so happy. Eventually Nagisa wins the game that lasted closely into the rubber set. Nozomi makes peace with Nagisa and shakes her hand. It’s like her coach suddenly realized his wrongdoings and that he was too focused on winning. I guess the only b*tch left now is Ayano who is just bored and unimpressed. Final match: Ayano vs Nagisa! Although both qualified for the nationals.

Episode 9
Oh look. Connie is here. I guess she qualified, huh? Yup, she and fellow Frederica, Yuika Shiwahime. High and mighty Connie is brought down when Ayano points out she can see her pantsu. This is what you get when you take the higher ground. They’re supposed to spar but Ayano gets devastated that her Wei-Wei strap (some Chinese whale shark mascot) got torn. Shiwahime suggests skipping the match and head to this Wei-Wei amusement park. How convenient. You can see Ayano as a big fan of this mascot and she’s literally acting like a kid. Even more so when Shiwahime wins the big prize and gives this huge Wei-Wei backpack to her. Time for the drama to start when they witness a pair of sisters arguing but finally making up. Because Connie confesses she wants Ayano to be part of the family. That is what she came to say. WTF???!!! You acting like a b*tch previously and now you say you want to be family?! You can tell how mad Ayano is despite her creepy smiling face because she starts a badminton game with a super powerful smash! Can’t take that, can she? I guess badminton is their only way to communicate. But Ayano descends into a badminton monster. So different than before that Connie looks like a weakling! WTF?! Flashback shows Uchika was in some badminton training stint for kids. Just because she noticed Connie all alone and found out she was the best player among the kids, spar a bit and then suggested they become family. Like, WTF???!!! Connie saw a picture of Ayano and was told she is her ‘older sister’. So basically Connie wants Ayano’s acknowledgement? WTF. In the end, monster Ayano defeats Connie. Is this the Connie we know?! More salt to injuries when Ayano tells her off it is impossible for them to be family. Because she is abandoning mom. Holy sh*t! Hey. You started it. Connie leaves depressed and sulking. When her Frederica girls happily greet her, Connie starts crying her heart out. The warmth of friends, eh? I guess she didn’t get the sisterly warmth she wanted. Is this the Connie we know?! WTF?! Ayano returns home but there’s a surprise waiting for her: Uchika. Long time no see. How do you abandon something or somebody who has returned to you?

Episode 10
Ayano ignores Uchika and shuts herself in her room. Can’t force her out, can you? Ayano plays against Tachibana and narrowly lost. She wants another game and since Tachibana isn’t going to oblige, she bugs Nagisa for one. In the locker room, the others are trying to live up the mood that their school have both representatives for the next round. Too bad Ayano had to shoot her mouth saying Nagisa will definitely lose to her if she plays her now. Cat fight coming up? Nothing happens. Nagisa is called to see Tachibana and Miyako. It seems Tachibana wants her to forfeit her match with Ayano because of her knee. She can always face her at the nationals as long as she keeps winning. This is hard to digest for Nagisa so Miyako explains how Tachibana was part of the team for the Olympics but he chose to pull out due to his own knee injury and then retire. It might look like he let slip a golden opportunity but he felt awful ever since. That is why he is speaking from experience to Nagisa. We take a detour as we see the boys’ tournament. The only ones in Kitakomachi are Gaku Isehara and Yukiteru Hayama. Isehara wins his first round and he has a few girls from other schools cheering for him? Must be his looks. It is Hayama’s turn and he is struggling his opponent. No surprise as he was last year’s semi-finalist. Then we have some flashbacks of him getting into badminton and why fellow badminton player, Yuu Ebina is so ‘concerned’ about him. Probably the tension is too much that she can’t watch his match. So she watched him practise every day after school and felt frustrated and painful? I don’t think she is jealous. But once Hayama lost in straight sets, she cried the hardest. Eventually Isehara too lost in the quarter-finals. Both aren’t giving up on badminton yet despite they are already high school seniors. Hayama continues to practice after that as Yuu confronts him. She confesses she loves him but surprisingly she isn’t sure. Because he showed her how to play badminton, she wanted to really support him. So is this love? He thinks she loves badminton. Thanks for clearing that up. We don’t need some distracting side romance, do we? Nagisa tells Tachibana she is still going to play Ayano. After all, she was that girl whom she lost to 21-0. Fighting her means fighting the person she was back then. Hence Nagisa would like Tachibana to coach her. Ayano still ignores Uchika. Until Uchika says after the tournament, why not leave Japan with her? Abandonment route cut off…

Episode 11
Ayano continues to ignore Uchika but the latter continues to talk to her. Is she hoping she’ll get confused and give in? Hayama drops in to practice badminton instead of studying for his finals. So Ayano suggests he plays her and she routed him. So now he doesn’t want to play the next set and return to studying? Yeah, studying is less brutal. To create the necessary build up for the final, hence we see the characters training, talking here and there. So hard to just skip to the finals. This includes Elena confronting Ayano to ask her what she is fighting for. Ayano then reveals mom abandoned her just to make her stronger in badminton. WTF reasoning is that???!!! If that was really the reason, can’t blame Ayano for turning psycho now because now she believes she has the power to abandon mom! Elena feels sad but blames herself for bringing Ayano back to badminton. You really regret it, huh? And finally the final starts. It is a slow start as both sides are trying to access each other. Thanks to smarty pants Kaoruko analysing and predicting the moves before she oh so knows it all. Sorry, can’t understand. Not really of a badminton nut. What I understand is that Nagisa wants to try avoid using her smash and force Ayano to overthink and make so many prediction options that she will hesitate. Like if this moment is Nagisa going to smash or not. Nope. Did not. Nagisa races to lead 2-0. And at this point Uchika leaves the stand?! I hope she’s not abandoning her so early when it’s just getting started. Of course somehow Elena sees this and follows her. They need to talk. Looks like Ayano has learnt to be more talkative because she notes how sneaky Nagisa is playing. She’s saying that with even deader eyes. Just wondering when she’ll turn into a full zombie mode.

Episode 12
Flashback shows after Ayano lost to Kaoruko, mom left. Without saying a word!!! Despite Ayano’s pleas not to go!!! WTF???!!!! And to answer Elena’s question, she did it because she wanted Ayano to improve since Ayano started doing badminton for her sake. WTF???!!! I have so many issues with that. It doesn’t sound convincing. Uchika continues she also wanted to open Ayano’s eyes by having great skills. Because only a few can earn a living in sports. A small injury can ruin your career. Yeah, you ruined your relationship first. Knowing she did something unforgivable, Ayano is on the verge of taking a new step thanks to the club who stayed by her side. At the end of the first set, Ayano wins 21-16. But why she looking so angry? Second set, to cut it short, Nagisa makes a comeback to take it 21-18. During the break, Tachibana assesses Nagisa’s knee. Still can go on but he again hints if something goes wrong, she must throw in the towel. I guess Ayano is even angrier that she even chides her fellow mates who are trying to cheer her up. She thinks they want her to lose. Until Sora lectures her how all of them wanted to play in the finals and go on to the nationals. Right now she is fighting for them too. For that moment, the crowd all cheer to support Ayano. Damn flashback messing with her mind. She wants to be strong that nobody will need but those damn moments in the badminton club made her heart soft. So what’s it going to be? Let’s get this last set going. Ayano starts with a shocker because she uses her right hand. Looks like somebody can be sneaky too.

Episode 13
Ever since Ayano used her right hand, Nagisa has raced up to a 10-0 lead! Tachibana has noticed that Ayano has always been ambidextrous but maintained only using 1 hand because of the time lost while switching. But when Ayano gets her first point, the tides are turned and she catches up. Yeah, Nagisa is getting pretty tired and her knee is still hanging in there. More drama as we hear Ayano’s thoughts why she is playing badminton. Then she found her answer. It’s to beat Nagisa. Well, duh. At least that’s your current goal, right? With Nagisa’s knee seemingly going to give way, Tachibana wants to call it quits but Riko believes in the power of believing. Believe in her a little more! Yeah, this is going to take a while before the game ends… So when the game goes into a deuce, more dramatic tension effects are added to drag out the drama. Like this long silence and you can only hear the heartbeats and the players panting. Oh wow. Such nail biting anxiety. Who is it going to be? And finally we have a winner. NAGISA! Oh yeah. You can start crying now. It’s a good thing her knee is still intact. Otherwise it will be tears of pain instead. It is also a good thing that Ayano has lost, her evil b*tch mode is gone. She apologizes to Yuu and Sora. Then she confronts mom. She admits she hated her and thought she abandoned her because she had no talent. To answer her question why she plays badminton, it’s because she loves the game. Yeah. Duh! Mom asks if she wants to go overseas to Denmark with her and Connie. Nope. She’s staying here. This is her starting line. Also, she has the nationals to play, right? Can’t just abandon the whole tournament, right? Oh Uchika, how does it feel to be left behind now? Ayano shows her smile. She hopes to play together some time. Ayano also apologizes to Elena for being a dick and b*tch all in one. Then she starts crying not because she lost but rather Elena has stayed by her side all this while as her friend. Damn those tears! Now it’s harder to hate her!!! Tachibana and Nagisa return from the hospital. Patellar tendinitis. Sounds horrible. But the real symptoms are not, so be glad that she can still play badminton with no big issues as long as she doesn’t push it. You think Nagisa isn’t going to surpass her limits? But hooray! Her career is still alive. And because of that, Ayano challenges Nagisa to play. Luckily Elena stops her before her b*tch mode starts rising again. They eventually do have their bout because the nationals are a few days away. Keep practising.

Bad-Drama-Mean-Mom-Ton
Sad to say… This series isn’t exactly a smash hit or anywhere near it. I doubt it will get another season because I don’t think we want to see Ayano get her revenge on Nagisa in the nationals. We have our fair share of drama for this season already. Even if they tried to make some amends in the final episode, the damage is done. It’s not entirely right for Ayano to continue hating mom, right? With them at least on talking terms, can we pin the blame on Ayano’s evil b*tch mode due to the pressure of the game? Uh huh. Because from what it looks like, Ayano was slowly turning into a demon and a character that you would hate. Until she lost and with no pressure left to do well, there is no more reason for her to stay that way. I mean, everything mostly remained the same even though she lost, right?

Unfortunately for a sports series that goes the realism route, there is only so much the plot can tell. Because it will be totally boring if it is totally focused on the court and the games only. Because might as well go and watch a real badminton match. Hence to give a reason why the characters play badminton, hence the much needed drama of the main characters to justify their existence in doing so. And too bad the drama here is boring and unexciting. Bad, if I should say but it isn’t so much that bad that it would be in the running of the worst anime of the season or the year. The drama and plot is made draggy and dragged out as the characters have their own inner battles to fight while they fight another battle on the court. Yeah, everybody has their own problems. Everybody wants to win. But many can only dream of that. Perhaps it is too early to criticise how bad the pace and direction of this series since there are only 13 episodes. It looks like not enough episodes to properly flesh out and develop the story and characters but considering how the draggy drama went, it felt like they were wasting time instead. Unless this is supposed to be the intended development.

Hence you can see the final few episodes of the series being dragged out for a few episodes because not surprisingly, this is what many sports themed anime would do. You have to really drag out the so called important matches and then spam it with a lot of monologue drama and flashbacks. Like everybody knows everything. But watching the final match between Nagisa and Ayano sometimes felt a bit funny. You see both girls suddenly going into overdrive mode that they look like different women altogether. They infuse it with a lot of angst and anger because it is understandable at this stage and considering their circumstances and relationship with each other, they don’t want to lose. But it’s just funny that after one scores the point, all that flurry of ferocious smashing movements just die down and they’re like, uhm, standing there? Yeah, better catch some breath. It’s like all that violence in the game suddenly come to a crashing halt. Funny if you consider all the drama that came in between. And when they’re having powerful rallies, sometimes I feel pity for the racquet and shuttlecock because I worry with all that power anger, they might just break them. Seriously.

As for the badminton matches, I am more inclined to say that if you are really interested to see one, you are better off watching a real live badminton match. I am not saying that the animation sucks but there are at times their movements are a bit jerky. In initial episodes, some of the movements look erratic that I thought the animation was a bit based on rotoscoping. Like as though they try to trace a badminton player’s movements into this anime. It looks a bit weird but if this was really what happened, I suppose it is a commendable way because what better way than to animate the human body of a shuttler in action? Otherwise, the other animation parts during the badminton matches look pretty decent and the sound effects of the shuttlecock hitting the wired racquets are really spot on.

Maybe that is why the series is trying to focus on the drama of its characters and not much of the actual badminton matches. As you would have realized, there are really no flashy exaggerated moves that some sports anime employ. I’m looking at you Prince Of Tennis and Kuroko No Basket. Thus no shuttlecock turning fireball smashes or shuttlecock that flies in like a homing missile! I’m glad they didn’t go with this route or I might have viewed this series with even more disdain. With realism in the game, may match scenes are not shown and before you know it, the match is won. Because it must be really boring if you see both players trade shuttlecock back and forth for every point. Yeah, we’re not going to stay and watch every point and might as well go watch a real badminton game. I guess we have to live with the infused drama then.

Now comes the worst part of the series that I find: The characters. Sighs, why are there so many b*tches here? There isn’t a single character whom I feel like I want to root for. The main characters have problems big enough that it makes them look like bad guys. Seriously, I’m not kidding. Take a look at Nagisa and Ayano. The former became a slave driver after her devastating loss and even though she redeemed herself, the damage had already been done and cannot be healed. Like her knee. Starting off to be such a heckler to your own teammates doesn’t bode well with viewers. She only toned down because now Ayano takes the spotlight. Honestly, if the producers think if they want a main character to be hated just to be refreshing, I think they’re doing a good job. It is understand she has her own past and issues but does this mean that Ayano has the right to treat others like dirt? She was fast becoming from a main character whom we had no feelings for to a very much hated character. I won’t be surprised even if she redeems herself somehow, we won’t be able to forgive her for being a dick. Oh sorry, b*tch. Like Nagisa’s case, the damage is done and people’s perception of you will be very hard to change. Even if the series had another cour to make these characters likeable again. Last episode that has them redeem everything, it sometimes feel so rushed.

But can we all agree that the worst character goes to Uchika? She is definitely in the running for top spot as the worst mother of the year. If you want to blame Ayano for her b*tch character, Uchika is largely to blame. It is understandable that all mothers want their best in their child. But the fact that she got up and left without saying a word or even explaining why, that was really sh*t. Come on. Ayano is a little girl. She loves badminton as much as she loves you. And to just get up and leave like that without even saying anything, not even a simply goodbye, that is just cruel. Even if little Ayano will not understand what she explained (and hence the cliché you will understand it when you’re older), at least it is much better than leaving without saying a damn thing. That is just traumatic for a kid who has been relying on her mom a lot. I’m amazed Ayano didn’t turn into a serial killer after that. I won’t be surprise and in fact would be glad if Ayano hanged up her racquet and temporarily turned into a killer to kill off her mom! Yikes! Alternate fantasy. But it’s good to at least know that Ayano does not fear and to continue walking under her mom’s shadow. Sometimes the best way to follow the footsteps of the one you admire is to walk your own path.

Fuelling Ayano’s insecurity is the fact that she adopted another foreign girl as her daughter and she wins championships under her wing. Oh man, I really want to see that alternate fantasy of Ayano turning into a serial killer. Abandoning mom as revenge just doesn’t feel satisfying at this point. Uchika did say she did something unforgiveable and unforgivable indeed it is. However the way she says that sounded like she has no remorse! Not a single hint. Maybe at this point there is no use regretting and Uchika is a strong woman who doesn’t show her emotions. My guts tell me that parents who do despicable acts like this to their kids, we are sometimes shown a glimpse of their other hidden face of regret (unless the parents are genuinely despicable). Uchika has no shreds of that, indicating that she expected Ayano to become like this. She might be the best female badminton player in Japan and possibly the world but she is the worst mother and deserves a special place in hell! Do you not agree with me???!!!

And the rest of the other side characters feel like they don’t really matter. It’s so as to make it look like it isn’t just about Nagisa and Ayano and to some extent Uchika. Like the other members of the badminton club are so weak in their game that it is no surprising that they couldn’t advance far enough. I don’t even know why they had to include some boys in the club. Maybe so it won’t look like all girls only playing badminton. They don’t really matter at all and I’m wondering if this is for some cheesy romance distraction between Hayama and Yuu that this series doesn’t really need. But then again, it would be utterly boring if everything is focused on Nagisa or Ayano. So let’s have a bit of this less than memorable distraction. I don’t even know why in the final ending credits montage they need to remind us of Noriko and Saionji ending up becoming a couple. Like what is the relation to this series, man?! Even that loser tennis member got an admirer. WTF?! What’s tennis got to do in a badminton series, dude?!

The fact of having Tachibana as their coach feels like an excuse to make Kitakomachi as worthy opponents. After all, he is at least theoretically Olympic material. Oddly, of all other schools or even the dedicated badminton academy, why this underdog school? Suspicious, eh? Otherwise Tachibana doesn’t really stand out character wise as he just dispenses advice when needed to. Or else he would let his badminton players do as they wish. Yeah, the ultimate goal is to have fun, right? Tell that to all the future champion wannabes. Miyako even feels more redundant and we can’t simply put an ex-Olympian as the school’s coach and therefore we have this incompetent and forgettable advisor. I wonder how she even got him in the first place. What’s their connection? So as to not make her character feel useless, the reason why she is the one who designed Kitakomachi’s badminton uniform. Meh…

The other badminton rivals are also not very memorable. Even if they are, most probably for the wrong reasons. Like Kaoruko, that snobbish b*tch who transferred her sickness to Ayano just so she could beat her on equal terms!!! WTF???!!! Oh, she is the other big reason to blame for Ayano’s trauma. And now she gets to be some smarty pants commentator in the final match? Just shut the f*ck up! Connie feels weird. I thought she is going to be a sisterly rival but then suddenly woah! 180 degree change! She really wants to be family! So why started off giving that antagonistic feel?! Does this twisted ways exist in the Hanesaki family?! So if Ayano abandons mom, looks like Connie won’t be your Japanese onee-chan. Boo hoo! Nozomi (the girl whom I’ll remember for having chopsticks as her hairpin!) also felt redundant and should have been like the many other nameless opponents. But I suppose they need her character to play up some sort of past with Nagisa and as well as Riko’s last hurrah. With such lacking rivals from other schools, it is another reason why I don’t think they’ll have another season. They might have to make up rivals that have some sort of past or connection to our main characters as we go.

Oh, before I forget, it seems there are so many characters who contributed to Ayano’s trauma. Uchika, Kaoruko, Connie and now I remember, Elena. Yeah, she was bugging Ayano so much to go back into badminton thinking it would do her good. Look how much it backfired. She thought she knew what is best for Ayano (what is she, her mother?) and look where it has brought her? Ayano was resisting not wanting to rejoin badminton but you forced her, right? Better take responsibility. Now that Ayano is playing her brand of less than desirable sportsmanship of badminton, Elena is now trying to virtue signal her? Sure, all of us love to see good sportsmanship from players in games. But like I’ve said, Ayano might be made to be a hated main character. Sometimes seeing Elena wallowing in despair over Ayano’s b*tch attitude feels more like she has made a mistake rather than wanting her friend to go back to the right path. Hey, sports is like showbiz and any other business in the world. It’s a dog eat dog world and nothing beats being number one. Winning is the only thing and everything! You don’t tell Ayano how to play badminton when you yourself can’t properly play the game! And thank goodness Elena doesn’t have to feel guilty for the rest of her life since Ayano came back to her senses and even thanking her for being her friend and reintroducing badminton back in her life. Gee, thanks. That’s what friends are for.

I have already covered the animation for the badminton matches, as for the other aspects, they just look decent. I just want to note that the art for Ayano’s face changes drastically during the finals with Nagisa. Ayano looks pretty plain already and then there is her zombie face! Is this creepy? If that wasn’t bad enough, Ayano and Nagisa’s art suddenly mature like as though they become different people! I thought they are different people! Especially Ayano who has this evil glint in her eyes, making her look like a bad guy. I’m sure they want to ramp up the drama and with such an important final, you got to take this seriously and look the part. Yeah, so serious that your art style even changes? Can I say that Ayano is a character with many faces? Plain face, happy face, crying face, zombie face, evil b*tch face. Even some scenes of the animation changes. Like as though they’re experimenting with it. For instance, some scenes just turn black and white. Wow. So dramatic. Kitakomachi’s badminton uniform… Did Miyako take inspiration of its design from a swimsuit? I’m not sure if this is works for aerodynamics but whatever.

Nothing much to comment about the voice acting. Feels pretty normal. Remember how I often attributed Sayaka Ohara’s voice to be perfect for villainess roles? If I consider Uchika as the villain, can I put her in this category too? Nobuhiko Okamoto seems to be taking a break from all the angry roles he voiced like Bakugou of Boku No Hero Academia, Accelerator of To Aru Majutsu No Index and Zack of Satsuriku No Tenshi. He is calm and composed like as though he has cast away his anger and no hint of it whatsoever. Other casts are Hitomi Ohwada as Ayano (Sana in Alice To Zouroku), Miyuri Shimabukuro as Nagisa (Narumi in Harukana Receive), Mariya Ise as Connie (Levi in Fairy Tail), Asami Shimoda as Kaoruko (Kotomi in Seitokai Yakuindomo), Konomi Kohara as Elena (Akane in Tsuki Ga Kirei), Yuuna Mimura as Riko (Kaede in Aikatsu), Arisa Sakuraba as Nozomi (Satan in Sin: Nanatsu No Taizai) and Mikako Komatsu as Miyako (Kanae in ClassicaLoid).

If there is one thing I prefer from this series, it is the opening theme, Futari No Hane by Yurika. It is very exuberant and energetic. A theme that should have really fit the badminton themed series like a glove had not all that bad drama ruined it. It’s the kind of song that is suitable for any high octane sports themed series. The ending theme is also an energetic rock piece, High Stepper by Yuiko Ohara. Not bad too but I prefer the opener. Again, would have been such a perfect fit if not for the bad drama.

Overall, it is a disappointing series because of the bad drama and main characters that you will instantly love to hate. Because it seems to indicate that the power of friendship is the one that saved Ayano instead of the power of family or motherly love. I’ll give them credit for this unique setting then instead of heading down the cliché path of the likeable underdog. This series would have had more potential if they put a little bit more focus on the drama on court rather than off court. I’m sure this series isn’t a good example to instil love for the game or attract more new players to it. Heh. I hope they won’t make current ones run away. It is even sadder in reality for Malaysians as our own badminton superstar is already nearing his setting sun and no potential successor at all. I guess the only smashing that we will get to watch is this series into smithereens. An instant kill shot. 0-21, 0-21. Game, set and match. Looks like an early retirement for this series.

Harukana Receive

November 17, 2018

Finally! Finally they made an anime about beach volleyball! Not that I was dying to watch an anime of this genre but I guess over the years they figured out that there are quite a few popular sports missing from the claws of animation adaptation. One of them being badminton and the other being beach volleyball (both sports themed anime series curiously aired in the same season). With Harukana Receive, anime fans now can rejoice that they can see all the glorious spiking and volleying action on the beach court. It’s perhaps the same reason why fans bought and played Dead Or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball because there are no other good beach volleyball video games in (sexy) HD! Yeah, probably the other sleazy mini games have its own attractive appeal… Hence it is the same for anime viewers. Because Haikyuu was probably too gay sh*t for some. What do you mean we are here to only watch sexy babes in bikinis sweating it out under the hot sun and sand covering every inch of their body as they dive to block and return shots?! You don’t expect beach volleyball players to play in fur coats, DO YOU???!!!

Episode 1
Haruka Oozora arrives in Okinawa and is picked up by her petite cousin, Kanata Higa. Haruka tries to be nice but Kanata just seems distant. Did she say something wrong? This show doesn’t waste time for the babes to drop their dresses to go into their bikinis since Haruka loves the beach. She meets a couple of beach volleyball players practising, Ayasa Tachibana and Narumi Tooi. She tries out and kinda likes it. However when Haruka thinks she could be the ace player, this irks Narumi. She claims beach volleyball is a team game and hence an ace doesn’t exist. Wow. She just turned sour. More drama ramping up when Kanata arrives. Narumi knows her but it seems she is somewhat upset Kanata never came back. Whatever beef they had, Narumi suggests a game. But if Haruka can score a point before they reach 7, she wins. So we see the Haruka-Kanata pair a bit clumsy and lacking coordination but Haruka manages to adapt and do well although ultimately they still lost. Cue for Narumi to b*tch about team play and hence no such thing as ace. Can a team have both aces then? Just saying. But this only motivates Haruka as she suggests a revenge match. They agree to it but give her a week to practice the rules and such. Since Kanata has beach volleyball experience, Haruka is looking forward to it. But why isn’t Kanata too happy? Later Haruka learns Ayasa and Narumi are high school beach volleyball champions and from the Kyoto powerhouse! It’s a small world. Of course this doesn’t bug Haruka a bit as she looks forward to the revenge match. Back home, Haruka asks grandma about Kanata playing beach volleyball once but she quit. Grandma doesn’t say much as there were issues then but is glad Haruka came. Cliché moment for Kanata praying at the altar of her dead parents. Also, cue for introduction of this series’ pet mascot. Folks, meet Kamekichi, Kanata’s pet turtle. Haruka tries to touch it but it quickly hides in its shell.

Episode 2
Kanata trains Haruka on the basics like running and getting used to the sand. She also makes some adjustments to her swimsuit so that sand won’t go in while playing. Then they discuss some techniques to beat their opponents. Especially the diagonally spiking cut shot that they won’t expect a beginner to do. But despite things going smoothly, Kanata still reels from a trauma of ‘running away’. She was a pair with Narumi and she froze when a ball was spiked at her. Narumi tried to cover for her but failed. When Ayasa comes to check on the practice progress, she talks to Haruka about Narumi being Kanata’s ex-partner. Because opponents target the weaker one, Kanata is often so due to her height. Kanata ran away and hence Narumi became the ace. She fears if Kanata comes back, Narumi might want her back. Of course Ayasa doesn’t want that and Haruka believes in Kanata. What are the chances that little girl heard that? Revenge match is here and the rules are still the same. The newbies are faring better although they still lose to the pros. They tried the cut shot trick but Narumi saw through them and expected this. Haruka thinks there is still a way to surprise them and that is for Kanata to receive. This shocks Kanata as she believes she cannot do it. Don’t worry. Haruka believes in you. First time she froze and failed. Oh, now it is match point. Since Haruka still believes in her, this has Kanata move forward and receive the serve. This in turn shocks Narumi. With her ‘paralyzed’, Ayasa tries to cover for her but Haruka wins it with a trick dump shot. Narumi still shell shocked. Never expected Kanata to receive still. She runs away. Looks like losers buying everyone ice cream will have to wait. Later Kanata tells Haruka her side of the story of how she didn’t grow and became a burden to Narumi, hence running away. She thought it was the best. Haruka also deduced Narumi’s serve wasn’t aimed at her but to avoid Kanata. Narumi feels bad that she might have hurt Kanata all this time. She blames herself for unable to make her move unlike Haruka. Ayasa comforts her that her kindness wasn’t wrong. Haruka was just a little smarter, that’s all.

Episode 3
Just when Haruka finishes her school transfer papers, she sees Kanata being taken away. Confronting them, Haruka panics to realize she is a foreigner. I speaking no English! Don’t worry. Claire Thomas speaks good Japanese. Heh. Plus, this is a misunderstanding. She is from the school’s beach volleyball club. Introducing to her twin sister, Emily, you bet the duo are going to join the club. But Kanata looking a bit reluctant. Right off the bat they start practising. Actually they play a game with each other. I guess it’s the best way to practice. The twins own the duo well as Haruka learns the use of this spike move called pokey. However Emily is upset that Kanata will not use it. Oh no. Not again. Mood soured. Kanata has some trauma about it. Vague snippets. So as Haruka-Kanata pair trashed, finally Haruka uses this pokey move. Why everybody shocked? You mean they did not expect her to do this? So this returns Kanata’s confidence as she finally does the pokey. She narrates she wasn’t obsessed with spiking as she was a power player. But now things have changed. After the match, the twins show them a junior tournament. You bet they’re going to enter, right? Emily apologizes to Kanata for her behaviour. Kanata is confident of regaining her former self. Later Kanata tells Haruka about how she and Narumi became a pair. Narumi was a transfer student in her elementary school. Hard to approach, somehow beach volleyball was suggested. Reluctant at first, Narumi gave it a try and before you know it, they’re a good combo. They even bested the twins. Their friendship grew and so did their skills. They made a promise to be the best in Japan but after that, Kanata ran away and failed to keep that promise and she felt left behind when everyone changed. She only realized that she was the one who changed. Haruka offers to be her official partner.

Episode 4
Haruka is in the same class with Kanata. She introduces herself. No response. Not friendly, huh? I guess this means we don’t have to bother with those b*tches and focus on the beach volleyball side. During practice, Claire talks to Haruka about their defence area. Because Kanata covers a wider area, this only means that she doesn’t count on her to block. With Haruka jumping around too much, Claire points out that her nether regions were ‘flashing’ so embarrassed Haruka has Kanata do some adjustments. Hence they decide to get matching swimsuits. It took some time before Haruka decided to buy the pair she wants but it seems a couple of girls had snagged them. They are Ai Tanahara and Mai Sunagawa from the volleyball club. They lost a recent tournament and will be participating in this junior tournament to let go some steam. Haruka lost to Mai in the rock-scissors-paper game. My question is, why can’t they both just get the same swimsuit? Don’t tell me the store does not stock more than a pair? Thanks to this, they get another ‘better looking’ pair. Back home, Haruka does a little amendment to their official swimsuit by incorporating some traditional Okinawan pattern. While it means eternity, she didn’t realize the other connotation that it is a confession of love when being presented to one’s partner. Haruka doesn’t care as she loves Kanata. Is this a lesbian show in guise of a beach volleyball theme?! But it’s too much for Kanata to handle as she passes out. Later Emily tells Kanata the truth of what Narumi said before she left for Kyoto. She still intends to keep her promise and if Kanata ever returns to play and found someone new, she hopes Emily would support that person. Of course Narumi would prefer to always partner Kanata but eventually she too will end up with a new partner. Kanata sees Haruka secretly practising. You know she’s practising real hard when you see bandages on her fingers. This is to earn her trust and that she can receive the ball without worrying. I hope this blows whatever blues that has been holding back Kanata. So is this the start of a beautiful lesbian relationship?

Episode 5
The junior tournament is here. Guess who Haruka-Kanata team is going to face in the first round? Ai-Mai team! The rivalry is going to get intense. I guess that swimsuit grudge is hard to let go. We see Haruka-Kanata doing well as Mai made a few mistakes. Of course a flashback shows how Ai invited Mai to join the volleyball club despite she is short because she told her it’s a sport where they can defeat tall people! And when they lost, Mai was inconsolable and hence Ai felt bad for lying. In the end, Haruka-Kanata team takes the first set. We take a detour to see the twins in their match. Lots of people watching it because didn’t Kanata tell you? The twins were ranked second in the Nationals! Now back to our second set match. It seems Mai has learnt some feint trick that Kanata does with her pokey. She intercepts it all the time. Hence Ai-Mai team takes the lead. The twins finished their straight sets so they get to go watch our heroines play and even comment on it. Like how Emily notices Kanata’s pokey not being a good attack because she hits the ball from a low point of impact and it flies high enough and in the air long enough to give her opponents time. But why does she keep doing it then? Hmm…

Episode 6
The logic of Kanata doing such pokeys is that since they are predictable, Mai has to go receive them. In the long run she will exhaust herself. It is evident at this point as Mai is getting tired and doing mistakes. This allows Haruka-Kanata pair to catch up and Haruka getting the hang of the jump timing. They even get the help from the wind to throw off their opponents to earn match point. And yes, the final point goes them and they win it. In the aftermath, we see Ai-Mai pair somewhat reconciling. Some tears, some you have improved, some try your best again, you know the usual stuff that will have them move on and be better the next time. In the end, Haruka and Kanata lost the next round and this entire junior tournament is won by the twins. I guess we don’t need to see them play unknowns. Kanata would love to play them but you know, there is the Nationals tournament known as Valkyrie Cup. And we don’t have to worry that they have to face off with each other in the preliminaries so that one will go to the main tournament because since the twins won twice in a row, Okinawa will get 2 representatives. Yup, no need to worry there. Beach volleyball isn’t all about the sexy physical stuffs. Secret hand signals are a must too and looks like Haruka is having a tough time learning them. She better learn quick or else no dinner. The irony that Kamekichi knows it better than her.

Episode 7
Has this changed into an idol show?! Despite seeing Akari Ooshiro prance around on stage (via bad CGI), this is only her delusion. In reality, she seems desperate asking Kanata to join the beach volleyball club. Her goal is to become a beach volleyball idol and be famous. Kanata has a feeling she has seen her somewhere before but couldn’t put her finger on it. Akari is brought to see the twins and she is eager to pair up with them. However the twins don’t intend to pair with anyone else and this dashes her plans. But when ask to join the club first, she doesn’t want to anymore. Haruka and Kanata try to go find her at class but is told she has no friends as she is a celebrity. Kanata now remembers that drink commercial she used to act in. My, so cute. The duo manage to find her eating lunch by herself. She wants to be left alone but Haruka tells her they’ll do so if they beat them in beach volleyball. And hence Akari does so but she’s like doing them a favour, complaining and the likes. She teams up with Emily to square off against Kanata alone. The rest are referees. Being an amateur, Kanata could easily predict her moves and of course Akari herself is riled up. In the end, Akari failed to score a point. And then some life lessons how sports brings people closer and make friends, blah, blah, blah. With that, Akari joins the club (still acting like she’s doing them a favour) but is embarrassed when Claire starts replaying that commercial again. Later Akari reveals she really wanted to make friends but being an idol would be the best way. Thanks to them, now she understands. Though, she still has a score to settle with the twins and think she’ll be famous if she beats the. Dream on. The gang is surprised when Marissa, the twins’ mom and coach has returned.

Episode 8
Marissa is back to train them. So mom came all the way back from America just for this? I guess Claire put in the ‘request’ so mommy can’t deny her cute daughter. Marissa’s spiking is already so powerful and she says this isn’t her best? Wow. I guess she could have put a hole in the wall if she was in her heydays. So to cut short Haruka and Kanata’s lesson from her, basically they need teamwork and cooperation. Like, duh? Yeah, teamwork and cooperation like a married couple. With training can only give you so much, the rest is up to experience. Hence a little flashback when the twins battled Kanata-Narumi for the title and lost. They became best friends, best rivals. With the summer vacation coming up, the girls hit the shrine. Let’s hope Akari being the only with bad luck won’t bring the team down. Heh. Haruka gets a call from Ayasa. Apparently they are in Okinawa but is waiting for a flight back. So I suppose it’s an excuse for everything to go see her even if they shove it to make it look like it is just Kanata who wants to see her. Don’t worry. Marissa is here to take them to the airport. Haruka is unsure why Emily is clenching herself. You’ll soon find out. Damn, she’s a hell driver!!! Hold on tight to your seats. Thankfully with the traffic jam, no more life risking. Damn, it’ll be a shame if these young girls died in an accident due to ‘reckless driving’. With the traffic jam, this adds drama for the girls to run there on foot. They reach just in time before their plane’s departure. Kanata calling out to Narumi but is given the cold shoulder. So she ran all the way only for this? Nah. Just trolling. Narumi shows their international friendship sign so you can say all is well. Everybody’s so happy for the future.

Episode 9
The qualifiers are here. But first, Akari seems to be so troubled that she calls Ayasa for advice. Whatever it is, just express your feelings. She relays the news that since there weren’t enough team in the qualifiers, only 1 team from Okinawa can go through. WTF. That doesn’t make sense. It’s not like there’s 100 teams here, right?! Hence Akari’s worry stems from the girls will be facing off each other in the finals for that spot. So she fears the club will be destroyed? Huh? Where did she get that idea? Yeah, she’s talking how much she loves the club like as though she’s been here for a long time. Oh, here are some scrunchies she made as token of their friendship and good luck charm. Now can we stay positive and win this thing? Before the match starts, our girls stumble into Ai and Mai who aren’t participating but helping out as staffs. Both our favourite girls win their first round matches. Then there is the Aragaki sisters, Youna and Kanna. They want a revenge match against the twins from 3 years ago but first they have to face off with Haruka-Kanata pair. Yeah, they’re confident of beating them for their revenge match but Haruka isn’t going take that lying down. During the game, the sisters realize Haruka’s play resembles so much like Claire. Because they underestimate them, Kanna hints of using some technique they’re still testing. Too bad they continue to lose and Haruka-Kanata pair takes the first set by a mile. I’m not sure about this topspin technique Kanna is trying to do to increase speed and then suddenly change its trajectory, but it isn’t working too (since Haruka is able to return them) in the second set as Haruka-Kanata pair takes the second set also by a mile. I guess they’ll have to wait another year for their revenge. And now it’s the finals. Haruka-Kanata vs Emily-Claire.

Episode 10
Master versus student. Basically the twins dominate the match and showing no mercy. It’s like they’ve never received this part of the training or in practice before. Yeah, we always have this spare trump card just in case. The match is so intense but why is Akari looking so sad? Yeah, either way she is going to be just sad because somebody has to lose, right? In the end, she thought of cheering things up by singing that commercial song of hers. I believe it’s just to calm her own nerves down. Anyway, Haruka and Kanata have planned it out before that they want to target Claire. Just to let us viewers know why they’re doing such strategy. And coincidentally what do you know? Claire also knows they’re targeting her so bring it on. The twins in the end take the first set. The next set starts and to drag out the drama, hence some flashback to tell us why they are no longer the same people back then. Yup, they have improved many times fold. We get it. Can we get along with the game already? No surprises here as the twins continue to dominate and lead. Until Kanata does one tricky move to score a point. So you didn’t expect her to do that? You’re getting super serious now? Weren’t you the whole time? This is the serious Kanata you want to play? You’re saying Kanata wasn’t this serious all the while?

Episode 11
Oh dear. Do we need more of those flashbacks? The first time Claire lost and was so sad and eventually the twins become frequent sparring partners with Kanata and Narumi. And then one day Claire became upset because Kanata wasn’t playing the way she used to. Her goal was gone. Now that she’s back, it’s time to get the game going. I suppose for drama effect and to drag it out, Haruka-Kanata pair wins the second set. You frustrated, Claire? I blame those unnecessary flashbacks. For the final set, Haruka and Kanata win the coin toss to pick which side they want to start. It is important because they realize they need to use the wind in their favour. Although they manage to score a few points and take the lead, the twins have their experience and finally strut their stuff. At this point, both sides are exhausted and they are running on how strong their will is. It is now match point in favour of the twins. Haruka feels a bit bad for losing a few points but with Kanata proving how determined they are not to let it end here, a couple of lucky blocks and volleys, they force this set into a deuce. Yeah. Such a miracle comeback. No wonder we have to drag this on to the final episode.

Episode 12
Wow. So dramatic. Because Akari calls Narumi to tell who won… But before we get to that, let’s see more drama on the court in this final set. More spiking. More volleying. More pokey. Slo-mo dramatic action. Girls diving. Sand in their face. Deuce to prolong the action-cum-drama. Oh wow. Truly a final do or die match. In the end, it is the amazing block by Haruka that enables her team to win! Hooray! But why Haruka and Kanata not happy post-match? It’s like they’ve lost? Ah well. Here comes Akari to relay them the good news. A positive message from Narumi. Yeah. Be happy with their victory. Also, we see the twins trying to put a happy face but we know they’re sad inside. They don’t regret teaching those 2 who have now seemed to surpass them. Now for some celebration as the quintet have a BBQ beach party! I guess they need more reassurance with Ayasa and Narumi calling again to wish them luck. Won’t lose. See you at the Nationals. Time to remember Akari’s ‘usefulness’ to the team because without her scrunchies, they would have been lost. Yeah, thank you. Haruka tells Claire that final block she did, she learnt it from her. Can I say it’s one of those moments where something comes back to bite you? Claire then gives their scrunchies to Haruka. Take this and win it for them. Oh, the burden just doubled. So I guess now it is back to more practice. Fancy watching another final matchup? Funny how Haruka narrates some team sports you can only play with 2 team members. And that sport is beach volleyball. But what about tennis doubles, badminton doubles, squash doubles, ping pong doubles, kayaking doubles, curling doubles, bobsleigh doubles… Oh, the last one reminds me and feels so gay…

Serve Up Those Asses!
Sighs… I guess that’s it. Thanks for the asses this season. I mean, beach volleyball action. I am not sure if those 2D asses were the reason why I didn’t fall asleep nor why I didn’t find it boring. I know. Surprising, right?! With this series lacking anything exciting, it seems hard to find a valid excuse that the only things that are keeping one falling asleep while watching such shows are the babes in bikinis and the cameramen having the best field day of capturing those up and close zoom-ins of those ass shots. Keep up the good work, everybody! Players and spectators!

Well, I didn’t really expect for this series to have any sort of storyline and the so called friendship drama thingy was somewhat predictable. Even I could guess who should win before the finals started. Hah! I had a 50% chance and got it right. I mean, this is a sports genre and how much more story and drama can you put in? It is even more limited when you consider that there is realism and not fantasy. What do I mean? If you have watched Prince Of Tennis, you will notice that all the tennis moves are just impossible to pull off in the real world. Super exaggerative. Hence you don’t see our girls here pulling off hard slamming spiking moves with exaggerated special effects of the volleyball turning into some speeding meteor and slamming into the opponent’s court for some awesome explosive point. Yeah…

Therefore watching the Kanata drama of why she stopped playing volleyball and then returned to the game because of Haruka, well, personally it isn’t something that isn’t exactly exciting. Maybe it is in volleyball sense but I could hardly feel any heartstrings being tugged (if there was any) and instead want them to right away get to the volleyball action so that I could see some asses. Oops! I mean see the girls being acrobatic and flexible on the sandy court. So the supposed friendship drama to me mostly feels like something that is shoehorned in so that this series won’t look like an obvious fanservice driven anime. Not that we all should know better when we decide to watch this, right? :).

But speaking of the fanservice… Well, I think Dead Or Alive Xtreme Volleyball provides way much better eye candy than this. This is just decent. I mean, it is to be expected, right? Girls wearing bikinis playing under the hot sun and sand. So unless you’re an amateur who just started watching anime or you have been so deprived, the butt shots and sexy shots are just passable. Uh huh. Excuse for having a lot of butt shots is so that a player can send hand signals to her teammate behind. Sorry, I wasn’t paying to whatever hand signals they were doing. Oops…

The characters aren’t anything much themselves. As mentioned, the wafer thin drama plot feels like an excuse to have a volleyball anime and it is just treading the passable line. What is a sports themed anime without its share of character drama? Hence the biggest one swirls around Kanata. They make it such a big deal about her trauma of running away from volleyball. But I guess when you are in her shoes, it seemed like a scary experience. But not us viewers. And then with the arrival of newbie honest-to-goodness Haruka, she is like the excuse Kanata needs to come back to beach volleyball seeing her strained relationship with Narumi feels like I’m-too-afraid-to-ask-to-be-friends-again-at-this-point. So all is forgiven that Kanata is back on track as her former self?

Predictably the final match and arc of the season had to be Haruka-Kanata and the Thomas twins. It is the only reason why we get to see some brief flashbacks on the twins and what strives them to get better. Pretty standard and nothing extraordinary, if I should say. I know everybody hates losing and Claire being a virgin loser really bawled her heart out then. I suppose you could say she has learnt and mature in many ways. Claire feels like the more interesting twin than Emily because of her myriad of emotions. She can be your best laidback pal one moment and in tournaments she can show you that scary serious face. Emily on the other hand feels like she is stuck with that same face and emotion throughout the day.

Akari feels like the odd one out in the club. Whatever her reasons to join the club, I feel like she got the short end of the straw. The club now has 5 members. She doesn’t get to pair up with another one of them since she is an amateur for now. When the twins graduated and leave, they’ll be down to 3 members. Unless they get more members, Akari will always be lonely. I think she’ll garner more fans as a beach volleyball idol. Gravure swimsuit shots all year round! Oh yeah! So as not to make her totally be as the useless one, hence she is the team’s glue because nothing makes the team feel stronger with togetherness if somebody makes the same scrunchie for everybody. Yes, seriously. Effort very much appreciated even if she still can’t play for real.

Marissa feels a bit redundant. She just returned for a while so as to train our main characters for their all-important match and that’s it? It’s an excuse so that we can see them play well and on par with the Thomas twins. Thank goodness they are prodigies in beach volleyball especially Haruka who learns fast and now she can play like a pro. Well, almost. Kamekichi as the series’ mascot feels forgotten after its initial introduction. Because when you have sexy babes in bikinis playing on the sand, not even the cuteness of the land turtle can steal away those perverted glances.

Other minor characters like Ai-Mai as well as the Aragaki sisters feel like they are there so as to show that this series revolves around more than just the school’s beach volleyball club members. Imagine how boring it is if every other opponents are nameless teams who we will never care since they will be defeated anyway. So having these few characters provide and prolong the little drama and in the future, perhaps turning into some cliché shonen moment, the opponents they defeat will become their allies in the future. Technically, the more people who root for you (especially from the defeated opponents), the higher your chances of winning, right?

On a trivial note, it is stated that Emily and Claire as a team, they are nicknamed Éclair. Nice. Therefore I wanted to nickname Haruka and Kanata’s team as Naruto. Wait. What? Why? Because Haruka Kanata is the name of the first opening theme of the first Naruto season. Haha! Woah. That feels like a long time ago. Oh well. So, uhm, Naruto doesn’t feel appropriate? I guess we’ll stick with Harukana then. Boring…

Art and drawing feel pretty standard. The characters look cute and sometimes if you think too much, you wonder if it is possible to practice and play beach volleyball so much and retain such smooth and silky skin. Just take a look at Haruka and the Thomas twins’ skin! Damn, these girls could be models and give Akari a run for her money! Since the setting is in Okinawa, the sceneries are bright enough and that it sometimes makes you want to wear sunglasses. Okay, I just exaggerated the last bit but yes, it is quite bright. Sun, sand, sea, beaches, I think these backgrounds are nice to look at if your eyes are not too focused on asses. The other thing ‘nice’ is (no, not the asses, mind you) is the special effects of the sand when the girls dive. Even if it is just okay, I guess it is pretty cool to me. And the odd thing is no matter how many times the girls dive and get sand all over, their bodies look clean as ever. The most you see them is sweating. I want to have that kind of beautiful sand proof skin! This anime is animated C2C who did Yurumates 3D, Aquarion Logos and Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasu Ka.

Nothing special about the voice acting. Didn’t recognize anybody. Probably too busy looking at somewhere else… The casts are Kana Yuuki as Haruka (Noelle in Black Clover), Saki Miyashita as Kanata (debut role), Atsumi Tanezaki as Claire (Mizore in Hibike! Euphonium), Rie Suegara as Emily (Shizuka in Marchen Madchen), Chisa Kimura as Akari (Scarlet in Uma Musume Pretty Derby), Miyuri Shimabukuro as Narumi (Nagisa in Hanebado), Kanae Itou as Ayasa (Sanae in Shinryaku! Ika Musume), Akari Kitou as Ai (Siluca in Grancrest Senki), Riko Koike as Mai (debut role), Minami Takahashi as Kanna (Megumi in Shokugeki No Souma), Satomi Akesaka as Youna (Arsene/Henrietta in Tantei Opera Milky Holmes series) and Umeka Shouji as Marissa (Kumagai in World Trigger).

The opening theme is Fly Two Blue by the duo behind Haruka and Kanata. Sounds generic and nothing special but I suppose it is pretty okay for this sports themed anime. The same feel goes to the ending theme, Wish Me Luck sung by the aforementioned duo but now joined by Claire and Emily to form a quartet. The interesting bit of this ending credits animation is the sketch-like animation. The girls sketching and then the zooming in to reveal another girl doing her sketch. Eternal loop. A special opening theme by Akari when she makes her debut, the very idol-like Mae Wo Muite at first gave me the impression she hijacked the show and it will no longer be a beach volleyball series. Yeah…

Overall, this series is average at best. There is only one thing why viewers watch this series whether it is true or not but everybody else will quickly judge and jump to the conclusion of why this series was made to be watched in the first place. Even if this is a normal beach volleyball anime. If this is enough to provoke any kind of controversy, wait till you watch that other ‘extreme’ water sport anime series, Keijo. Oh yeah. Remember that one? Would you rather have butts shoved in your face or sand in your face? Oh wait. I think it is pretty obvious… I highly doubt this series would get another season because what else are they going to play up? All of us would be expecting more glorious ass shots and ‘exotic curves’. So once this is all over, I think we’ll go back to just shamelessly play Dead Or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball. Ganbatte, Marie-chan!!!!!!!

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.

Keijo

April 16, 2017

Just when you think they can’t get anymore ‘creative’ with fanservice sports, then they come up with this ridiculous idea of a fictitious female-only sports whereby you use your butts (and sometimes boobs) to hit your opponent out of the ring!!! OMFG!!! It’s definitely targeting a certain (loser and horny) demographic here. But (pun intended) I suppose that if you love butts and boobs and a sleazy excuse to watch girls battling out in their swimsuits for a big part of the series, then Keijo is your answer. If that doesn’t ring any alarm bells, the original title has multiple exclamation marks to it! More exclamation marks for more hype! I think. I’m excluding it because I lost counting how many freaking exclamation marks there are. It’s like also a warning and a sign of what to expect of this show, right? But that’s enough talking. Sit your butt down and let the butts do the talking.

Episode 1
The sport of Keijo is definitely big business because it is big money if you are the champion. Yeah, the money is just short of being as good as doing porn. Haha! Nozomi Kaminashi dreams of becoming such player and she manages to get her wish to enrol at Setouchi Keijo Training School along with fellow classmate, Sayaka Miyata. Nozomi is excited to speak to reporters but they are more interested in covering Miyata since her father was a famous judo master so it definitely brings up news when his daughter left the sport for this one. When a rookie reporter tries to cover Nozomi, he is chastised by his senior that they should cover promising ones. And she thought Nozomi was promising. But they are stumped some of the best Keijo players interact with Nozomi. Like Hanabi Kawai who comes from the same school as Nozomi as well as the top ranked Keijo player, Mio Kusakai. Flashback reveals Nozomi and the rest were in a mock test to determine the rankings for the elite. Because when you’re in the elite class you get special treatment such as 50% discounts in your tuition fees. Wow. So you bet Nozomi wants to rise to the top quickly. The mock match begins with players teaming up against Miyata since they are wary of her judo skills but of course they are no match for her. Nozomi can also stand her ground but others soon gang up on her. That is when Kawai joins in the fun. She knocks out everyone with her swift butt swing. That is her butt doesn’t even touch her opponents! Soon it becomes a heated battle between Nozomi and Kawai using all sorts of their personal butt attacks. It even descended into a boob fight. In the end, Kawai wins when Nozomi receives a direct hit on her jaw. Nozomi and Miyata failed to become elites like Kawai but at least their spirit is still strong. Nozomi asks why Miyata left judo. So wearing a cute swimsuit is her answer? Couldn’t she do that in her spare time? Back to the present, Nozomi and Miyata have the bad luck to settle in room 309 which is rumoured to house failures who cannot keep up with lessons. Other roommates are the clumsy Non Toyoguchi and the unsociable Kazane Aoba. Chaos ensues when Nozomi tries to talk to Kazane but accidentally rips the magazine she is reading. And Non is just being clumsy wrecking everything. Miyata is having a headache as we speak… She can tell where this is going.

Episode 2
Hitomi Hokuto is the instructor for the Keijo trainees. If you think swaying their butts as core practice is weird, wait till you see the butt walk. Then there’s the theory part handled by Miku Kobayakawa and there is science behind Ass-trology and Boob-logy. I kid you not. I guess this is kinda boring so Nozomi is jealous the elites already have practical training unlike the regulars still stuck at core training. The next training has passing the beach ball using their butt without touching the ground. You think it might look easy but with Non’s weird inaudible accent, Kazane’s inability to speak up and Miyata just plain sucks in giving correct directions, the team fails and ending up in last place has them earn more butt exercise. So they did a little soul searching about themselves and the need to work as a team despite Keijo is a solo sport. So while training for the next test, Miyata notices something and should let Kazane give the team instructions since she could judge where the ball lands via the wind. Since Kazane is still shy, Nozomi does the honours. During the test, all goes well with Nozomi taking the lead. But Kazane eventually opens her mouth for the decisive coordinates that allows their team to take top spot this time and earn them the gelato prize. It is revealed Kazane’s shy nature is because when Nozomi mocked Non’s accent, Kazane got scared and thus decided to hide her Hiroshima accent. So it is basically Nozomi’s fault. Nozomi is thrilled they are finally going to have practical training. We see Miyata ‘examining’ Nozomi’s stern butt and Nozomi trying to hound Kazane about her D-cup boobs. For this training, each team will fight a teacher. Room 309 gang will face Nagisa Ujibe. She might look like a fat seal but in her heydays, she was the slim slender sexy champion nicknamed Siren! Wow. She really let go, huh? Of course Ujibe is no pushover and she can move as agile as before. When Nozomi tries to nail her finishing move on her, it seems some force rips her other teammates’ swimsuit! Ujibe identifies this as Vacuum Butt Cannon.

Episode 3
After that butt cannon, Nozomi feels pain. Her hips are strained and she has to be taken away. But after some healing and massaging, she feels better. We learn more about the 3 fighter types that Keijo players are classified. Like infighter who uses close range and brute butt strength to push off the opponent. The outfighter uses speed to strike while the counter utilizes their opponent’s attacks and strengths against them. Nozomi is also visited by Kawai and Kusakai who heard her condition and Nozomi is pretty confident she can master this move to become the champion. Elite Rin Rokudou as the fastest outfighter in western Japan, thinks Nozomi is too good for the regular class. She is so fast that you couldn’t see how many times she attacks. So fast that her massaging of Non’s boobs made her go into ecstasy. Rin offers Nozomi to train with her instead of her weak teammates. Of course they don’t take likely over that mocking. Rin reminds them there is an event where all the class will take part in soon. Nozomi is called by Ujibe about her butt cannon. She is forbidding her to use it again. Despite being powerful, it has risks. Although some using it have become champion, they hurt their hips and retired early. Thus why many avoid using this technique. Nozomi is adamant and stubborn she wants to become better so to see her resolve, Ujibe makes her wear this lame looking suit, UTM (Ujibe’s Training Mail). Stiff as hell. Nozomi perseveres the hardship in doing everything wearing UTM till she can walk normally and flexibly again. For the class change race, regulars are given a chance to advance to the elite class. A race is divided into 4 competitors and there is at least an elite in every race. Miyata is in the first race which also has Rin. When it begins, Miyata quickly targets Rin first.

Episode 4
Because the platform is a see-saw type, the gravity is imbalance and before you know it, the other 2 unimportant opponents drop out. All that’s left is an epic butt battle between Miyata and Rin. But, seriously. Miyata tries to feign her off balance to catch Rin off guard but Rin is fast enough to recover. Then it becomes some high speed butt gatling battle. I’m seeing after images of butts! Despite the same speed and reflex, Miyata is on the verge of losing out because Rin has better lung capacity. Just before she can hand in (or butt in) the finishing blow, Miyata pulls up her swimsuit to wedge it between her butt. Her butt is glowing! WTF?! It makes her go faster?! Her butt is like an afterburner?! WTF???!!! There’s some explanation about pressure and speed but I don’t care about it. I just wanna see the butts :-). Rin is pissed off as this threatens her title as the fastest outfighter but it is no use as Miyata butts her off and wins the race. Both show great sportsmanship by congratulating each other. But the painful aftermath is that Miyata’s butt is now cramped up and requires Kazane’s massaging to ease the pain. Yikes. Non is up for the next match. You think she won’t stand her chance because all her opponents are giant Amazon women! The butt of elite Atsuko Yoshida is so hard like a rock that it literally bounces off any attack! That’s what happened to the other opponents. Out they go. You think Non is screwed, right? Well, as Yoshida attacks, their butts collide. But Non’s is so soft and bouncy that it bounces Yoshida’s away! Non wins it! WTF???!!! The third match is for Kazane and she has to deal with Kusakai. At first it might seem brave of Kazane to attack Kusakai upfront but soon the other opponents gang up to take her down. It seems with Kazane running a massage service, she manages to get data of everyone just by touching their butts! WTF???!!! Really. WTF?????????!!!!!!!!! So with Kazane knowing Kusakai’s techniques and telling to the rest, of course they want to take down the strongest first. But when they corner Kusakai, she then starts swaying her boobs. It hypnotizes them! OMFG! On a side note, you don’t even need such special ability to hypnotize men with those big tits. Kusakai easily pushes her opponents into the water. There goes room 309’s winning streak. Next up is Nozomi and she has elite Kotone Fujisaki as company.

Episode 5
Nozomi thought of being friendly with Fujisaki. By listening to the music she is enjoying? Well, it’s more like some BL drama. Yikes! Kawai reveals Fujisaki is a thoroughbred. Her mom was the Keijo champion and her sister is in the pro league. When the battle starts, it seems she doesn’t even have to face her opponent as her butt does all the attacking. It’s like it has a mind of its own! Cerberus that’s what her butt is called. Yeah, the butt is chasing you!!! And her butt crack is like a dog’s teeth biting you!!! I’m not kidding! Oh, the reason she looks the other way is because she doesn’t want her opponents to see her fantasizing face when she fantasizes about BL. Yeah, she’s that good. So eventually it comes down to Nozomi alone against Fujisaki. Nozomi thought she had her butt under control by vibrating her butt since Fujisaki is sensitive down there. Just so you don’t get the wrong idea, that means Fujisaki can detect minor vibrations with her soles (the down there) and that is why she can sense where you are without looking. Nozomi is starting to look pretty annoying as she is able to dodge all of Fujisaki’s attacks and she can’t predict her movements. Eventually Nozomi uses her trump card. Yeah, it’s that Vacuum Butt Cannon. Cannon versus wolf. Is this match going to turn Super Saiyan? Eventually, the wolf gets blown to bits. Because some theory about centrifugal force via multiple rotation beats a move that only uses the platform. Whatever. Nozomi wins. Fujisaki thought she could find solace in listening to her BL. But this doesn’t excite her anymore. The match with Nozomi does. Oh dear. Is she turning lesbian? Nozomi is called by Ujibe and she fears her butt will be punished. But she takes measurements and notices how strong her butt has become. She allows her to use the technique as long as she doesn’t risk her life or career. Kazane is talking like she is going to quit as she is the only one among room 309 who lost. She gives her data she collected from other players. But they bring her to the notice board. It seems all of them got promoted to elites. Yay! She can stay. Despite her lost, Ujibe was amazed with her performance. Even more so, Kusakai used her forbidden technique and has been punished for it. Of course, Ujibe believes the quartet can grow further when they’re together.

Episode 6
The trainees head to Kyoto for a special training camp. Before hellish training begins, they are allowed to have fun first. Miyata has suggestions but Kusakai’s group is always louder with theirs so Miyata has to meekly tour herself. Of course that wouldn’t be right so Nozomi and the rest eventually go with her. They also get a chance to call home via pay phone. Nozomi seems to be taking an awful long time. Miyata calls home. Her mom picks up but dad isn’t willing to speak to her. While doing jogging, an old local lady runs faster than them. Not to be outdone by her, Kusakai, Rin and Nozomi try to match her speed but eventually lose out. This ‘old lady’ turns out to be the best Keijo player of Kyoto, Kyouko Shirayuki and she is roped in to help train the elites. She shows how superb her butt skills are. When Non accidentally trips and lets loose lumbers, Shirayuki uses her butt to push them all away! The elites will be trained via their respective category. As Nozomi is an infighter along with Kusakai, Kawai and Yoshida, they get Shirayuki. She might be strict with their petty flaws but is a pretty nice lady because she fixes up for them. In order to get to know them better, Shirayuki will have them fight a Keijo match one on one. This is to see and analyse their skills. Nozomi is up first and no matter what tricks she pull, Shirayuki dodges with ease and without effort. She is reading her like a book and toying her around. Eventually Nozomi is blown away with her butt technique called Anal Probe Missile! I kid you not this name!!! Shirayuki can tell Nozomi that her body has a serious weakness and is lacking something. Of course she must realize that herself otherwise she can forget touching her butt (in competitive sense) or become a pro butt banger. Why looking so shock Nozomi? Thought UTM did all the trick, did you?

Episode 7
Suddenly Nozomi starts stripping herself in front of Miyata to ask if there is anything wrong with every inch of her body! She’s worse than a flasher. After properly explaining, it is suggested she observe Shirayuki and match her moves like her. The other students now wear UTM as their training gear but this upgraded version is less taxing, making Nozomi heartbroken with all the pain she had to go through. While doing some water wading training, Nozomi realizes her attack power in the boobs is not that strong due to her butt becoming thick from UTM’s muscle training. She thought of continuing doing that training but Shirayuki advises it won’t work with pros as it is too obvious and to make full use of Vacuum Butt Cannon, she must push it to its limits. Thus a special training for her to pull out turnips with her butt. Yes. Pull out turnips with her butts. As expected, being a beginner means she only manages to pull out its leaves. Better learn fast because they have to buy up all the broken turnips. Mmm… I know what they’re having for the next meal and the next… Nozomi is frustrated that she can’t get it right. I think we can feed an army with all the broken turnips. At this rate she might harvest the entire field for free. Nozomi finds out that Shirayuki has her own busy schedule and promise to keep up. It makes her feel bad she was just thinking about herself. But that motivation still isn’t enough to make any progress. Even more frustrating when Kusakai joins in and successfully does it on her first try. Then inspiration hits her. Noticing the momentum on the cart containing turnips she is pulling, some complex butt thinking has Nozomi finally succeed. Still, more turnips to eat. There is this East-West War coming up. Aside Setouchi, the only other Keijo training school is Suruga. At this time, both sides compete to see who is better. Tomorrow will be the last training day so they are given a free choice to fight anybody in a mock race to see how much they have improved. It looks like Usagi Tsukishita has some sort of grudge on Nozomi and challenges her.

Episode 8
In short, Tsukishita admires Kusakai like a goddess. So this challenge is out of jealousy? We see the duo trading butt shots and Tsukishita seems to have the advantage due to her petite frame. Till Nozomi slams her Meteor Hip and takes the win. Tsukishita now becomes Nozomi’s friends although she still won’t lose out if it ever involves Kusakai. The Setouchi girls head to Shizuoka, the base of Suruga and where the East-West War will be held. Of course with better facilities and equipment, they are doing better training. Nozomi and co hear the Suruga’s teacher talking to the reporters. Not only she mentions Setouchi has never won against Suruga, it was okay if she badmouthed the students but they won’t let it slide when she badmouths their teachers. Nozomi wants to give her a piece of her mind but Maya Sakashiro stops her (with her butt of course). Wow. She bums her away with her blaster butt???!!! Nozomi also did some clothes damage to her. It was going to be an all-out war between both sides but the Setouchi teachers stop their students and have all them apologize for the ruckus. I mean, what good will it do if they prove their point this way, right? Later, the rules of the race is explained. It is a team battle with 4 members to a group. Best out of 3. Team 1 consists of Kusakai, Fujisaki, Miyata and Mari Murata. Team 2 will have Yoshida, Tsukishita, Kazane and Non. Finally, Team 3 includes Rin, Kawai, Nozomi and Saya Kogatana. Match day is here and the first teams go down to the battlefield. Suruga’s first fielding team consists of Saki Hanayama, twins Akari and Kano Fuyuzora and Nami Nanase (I kid you not her nickname is Ass Eater!!!). There’s some b*tch showdown between Miyata and Nanase since the latter mocked the former for running away from judo. But Miyata hits back because Nanase is an idol. An idol in this kind of sports? Time to settle all grudges in this jungle gym layout.

Episode 9
I’m sure Miyata is tired about remembering about her flashback regarding her father who disagreed letting her leave judo for Keijo. And sure she doesn’t need Nanase mocking her about it. All the time. When the match starts, Miyata dashes towards Nanase. She is a bit rash and Fujisaki manages to save her ass with her ass. I’m not kidding! The twins then lock and trap Murata with their dazzling butt to send this unknown as the first one out. The Setouchi trio then regroup and combine their might to bring down Hanayama. Miyata’s butt starts flashing because she uses it to accelerate. However it takes a toll on her body and her legs are temporary paralyzed. Fujisaki fights on her behalf but her wolf butt isn’t enough to save the day. Although she didn’t fall into the water, if your other body parts touch the stage, you are disqualified. This is what happened after Fujisaki gets exhausted from Nanase’s relentless attack. With Fujisaki’s emotional ‘handover’, I guess it serves as great motivation for Miyata to revive and attack. More flashing butt attacks? Too fast for Nanase to handle. But then her legs start to paralyze again and now it is Nanase’s turn to return the favour. After all that butt relentless smacking, I suppose what irked Miyata was how she once again spammed about their different Keijo leagues and she running away from judo. For the umpteenth time… This next move is really mind blowing. Miyata fondles her own boobs to erect her nipples. It’s flashing! OMG! Flashing tits! Then somehow she uses it to get Nanase’s swimsuit caught in it before using her judo technique to overthrow that b*tch. So you see, she didn’t forget judo. Oh, Kusakai has been smacking the twins into ecstasy with her butt till they drop out. So it is an upset victory for Setouchi! With everyone cheering for Setouchi, the best one would be Miyata’s parents giving her the thumbs up. Yeah, and dad was freaking confused seeing the different butt techniques but after seeing everybody supporting his daughter, he accepts that this is where she belongs. Can we stop airing footage of Miyata grabbing her tits and ass? It’s starting to look like porn…

Episode 10
We’re worried about Setouchi’s second team. Kazane is having nervous stomach cramps, Non wears her dress backwards and Tsukishita is fawning over Kusakai like a teenage girl madly in love. And they’ve got the fairy butt Ayase Kurogiri, the flaming butt Kei Higuchi, the dancing butt Mai Itoeda and the uhm, Black Beast Sanae Hououin to deal with. When the match on the twin aircrafts begin, it looked like Suruga side is trying to separate the Setouchi team to prevent them from doing their teamwork. However this is part of Kazane’s plan as they lure their counterparts to certain points and when given the signal, Setouchi jumps and causes imbalance like a see-saw. This causes Higuchi and Itoeda to fall off. Setouchi should think again if they are supreme with numbers. Because Hououin’s strength in her butt can easily push off Yoshida! Kazane’s plan now is for Non and Tsukishita t take on Kurogiri while she herself will fight Hououin. Don’t look down on Kazane. Because it seems she can imitate the butt techniques of her other comrades! Flashback reveals that her hand scanner allow her this ability. Because all her comrades want to help her out, they let her touch their butt! OMG. This scene with the girls lining up and putting out their butt to touch feels like porn!!! Heck, Kazane even has got this Archer’s Noble Phantasm move of Gate of Babylon. Gate of Bootylon!!! However Hououin counters by twisting her nipples which in turn becomes powerful drills! WTF?! Before Kazane is done for, Non jumps in to help. It seems Kurogiri has been made to run around and now her fairy butt has tire out and turned into some ordinary flabby butt. Huh?! In a last ditch attempt, Tsukishita sacrifices herself to take out Kurogiri. Kazane and Non’s butt are able to repel Hououin’s boob drills. But Hououin targets Non and she is sent flying into the water. In the final showdown where the both girls clash their boobs, both get blown off and fall into the water simultaneously. Is this a draw? Playback footage might reveal that Hououin touched the water first but because of her drilling boobs, the air pressure pushed away the surface of the water! OMFG!!! Thus Suruga wins and ties the score in this close fight.

Episode 11
Non and Kazane are sad, blaming themselves for the loss. Of course they have to be comforted and assured how they’ve given Suruga a run for their money, etc. In this third and final match on a floating castle, Suruga’s side will have Tae Yokosugi (giant fatty), Midori Morimoto (fluffy hair), Hikari Muromachi (Phantom of the Opera mask) and of course Maya. As it begins, Nozomi and Maya immediately clash butts hard. Then Nozomi puts her face in Maya’s butt just to analyse her butt power! WTF?! It’s ironic that the girls are playing such perverted game and Maya calling her a pervert? She beats up her opponents with shameless butt techniques but flusters like hell when one’s face is planted in her ass? Funny… We take a detour from their fight to see Rin and Kawai teaming up against Morimoto and Muromachi. Muromachi can flash her boobs to blind her opponents! Really! Rin knows the trick behind this flashing. As she uses the sun to reflect the oil on her boobs, Rin throws up her bikini top to cover the sun and then beat her up enough to remove the oil and seal her move. Too much boobs flashing already! Then Morimoto and Muromachi combine by wearing the same swimsuit to fight! Hey, 2 butts are better than one! If you’ve forgotten all about Yokosugi and Kogatana, here they come interrupting the match. They thought this unknown is easy meet so they separate as Morimoto falls to her samurai swing boobs and falls into the water while Muromachi gets taken out by Rin and Kawai’s double effort. Hey. Muromachi has got cards spewing out from her butt???!!! WTF???!!! Back to Nozomi-Maya match. The hard hitting butt match continues with Maya having flashbacks how everyone ostracized her because her butt breaks things. Really. Then her Keijo coach saw potential in her and took her in. Maya is in fear of losing that respect and place of belonging so before Nozomi can deliver the decisive Vacuum Butt Cannon, it’s like something inside Maya activates. Woah! She’s like a different person now! Literally, it’s like her dark alter ego just taken over.

Episode 12
Apparently this alter ego is called Kaya. She is rougher and more ferocious. Yokosugi tries to explain about this split personality. Maya was always abused and whenever she entered this state, Kaya will come out. Kaya didn’t appreciate this and knocks the fatty into the water. Kaya herself is a handful. Even with 4 outnumbering 1, they cannot penetrate her tight defence and offence. So one by one our Setouchi side gets knocked off but not before giving Nozomi some power push. This enables her to fight on par with Kaya. If that fails, Nozomi tries talking to Maya to settle their score. This actually makes her come back and take back her body. In this final epic power pulsating butt clashing tits bashing brawl, eventually Nozomi wins by evolving her Vacuum Butt Cannon, using that rotational energy to propel it to her piercing nipples!!! For the first time in 10 years, Setouchi wins and makes a major upset. Everybody rejoice. I guess it is appropriate to make the pun, “Hip hip hooray”? Maya apologizes to her coach who is also her mom for losing this important match. But to show how everybody values the player always, mom and daughter reconcile and a happy ending for everybody. An after party is held for the Keijo players. Both sides are now good friends and this is how it should be as they should just keep their b*tching rivalry in the arena. Maya is late attending it as she was catching up some sleep to restore her stamina. She expresses her wish to fight Nozomi again. You bet your butt they’ll meet again. The Keijo players graduate and now they have turned pro. They say their goodbyes and take group photos. As each player is assigned to the prefecture they come from, Nozomi and Miyata are in Hyogo prefecture. When they register, instantly their name alerts the other pros (weirdoes) of the same branch.

Rear-Ended & Bummed Out. No But(t)s About It!
Bummer. It’s over. Pun intended. I want to try and explain without making others misunderstand that I enjoyed myself watching this show. Uh huh. Yes, I was laughing at all the silly butt action and moves other than fapping to every juicy butt in-your-face camera angles. But I guess there is no point in trying to convince other ‘purists’ once they realize what this show is just all about. There is no way you can ever justify telling others you enjoy seeing this show without images of boobs and butts popping up in our minds. You’ll always be labelled a pervert anyhow. So screw all that and let’s just wish another season for more butts and boobs galore! I can’t wait to see what kind of butts Nozomi and co will bum(p) into next. Well, if the producers ever get the balls to produce another season.

Can you actually take this series seriously?! With about half the episodes and even more especially during battles you are going to see the girls’ butts literally in your face! You see all those freaking high speed and hip twisting butt attacks and thrusts that they pull are just ridiculously insane. It’s not possible unless you are a gymnast or contortionist. It gives a whole new meaning to the term butt hurt! Seriously! So it was a dilemma to whether call those battle scenes as action or fanservice but it feels kinda like both. It’s like killing two birds with one stone. With all those high level speed of thrusting as well as the energy projection discharged from their asses, you might think that the damage they take would have left some sort of permanent damage. Well, to ordinary people, that is. From sore butts to sagging boobs and damaged pelvic bones, man they’re going to have lots of health problems when they grow old. Worse than arthritis. Thus it makes me wonder if Goku and other Super Saiyans can actually beat all these butt power moves.

So yeah, I was like either laughing all the way or being flabbergasted with my mouth wide open to see such hilarious and impossible butt moves. Yeah, hats off and 100 points to those who really came up with such ‘creative’ and flashy tactics. I never knew butts and boobs can do a whole lot of such moves. Even funnier is how some of them are named. You got to really hand it to them (in the ass). I mean, Butt Flash? And that’s not just flashing your butt for others to see. What about Nipple Ripple Madness! Madness indeed! Then there are butts that seemingly shoot projection or hypnotise you?! And what about parodies of Gate of Babylon and even one parodying Attack On Titan! You can’t make all this sh*t up! And with so many Keijo players and each having at least 1 signature move, you bet your butt there are going to be lots of backside moves to keep perverts happy and others in shock. It is a good thing that there are quite a few varieties of moves involving tits and butts to keep us entertained. Otherwise we’d be even bored and thinking how cheap they are using the same moves for a few characters.

Therefore one of the most amusing things you get to ‘learn’ in this series is the hip word for the episode! I’m not kidding or making this up. Pun intended I suppose. I know they are just making puns of the Keijo players’ moves but sometimes you can’t help smirk at such ‘creative’ terms like K-acceleration Full Purge and Boobs Pressure Points in addition to Boob Hypnosis and Hip Toss. Man, this kind of moves could put those babes from Dead Or Alive to shame! Yeah, those Xtreme Beach Volleyball and Paradise games are nothing compared to this level of fanservice.

And yes, all this amazingly ties in cleverly to the fanservice and thus the real reason why we watch this series. How often do you see in other anime series whereby a female character or a whole lot bunch of them throw their asses to you? With such a butt galore, it won’t be surprise that this might be your new fapping and wanking material. You see the way the girls molest their own boobs and butts as an excuse to power up with ridiculous moves so much so it’s like borderline playing with themselves! It goes to show that you don’t need the classic cliché pantsu shots and boobs shots to do the ecchi trick. We may have already become tired of those. Even we may have sexual innuendoes fatigue. So what better way than to stir up all that horny lust again by shoving it outright in our faces. You can’t go wrong when you have butts and boobs in your anime, right?

Hence it is pretty much obvious with the fanservice as the main stay of the series, there is very much lacking of a plot. The synopsis tells it all about the sport and it is just to supplement the fanservice that they will be spamming. I mean, take a look at this season. The ‘plot’ revolves around battling among themselves and then fighting the other Keijo academy. Heck, you don’t even need to know the plot. Just jump in and enjoy the bootylicious booties. But don’t freak out when you see those asses suddenly having all its muscles contorting or the girls using their boobs like hands to clip and grab. Remember, these are trained Keijo players and to pull off even the most ridiculous behind moves, they have trained their muscles and ass qi whatever to entertain us. Hell, we guys don’t even care. A simple nice ass and boobs are all that is needed to enthral and hypnotise us. Period.

Talking about the game format itself, ass-uming (pun intended again) Keijo is a Japan-only sport (like sumo) so there isn’t going to be international opponents because sure hell the people from the west would have bigger hips and booties to begin with, right? It is pretty odd that as far as I know the Keijo sport is only an individual tournament whereas as I can see if there is a group tournament like the East-West War, it would give a lot of drama and storyline to play out.

We’re so into the butt action that I don’t think we really give a damn about the back stories of the characters. I’m sure each one do but we don’t really care. Most prominent of all would be Miyata’s judo background and family. But that isn’t really much in driving the overall story. Even Nozomi as the supposed main character, we don’t really see or learn her past of why she is so eager to become the best Keijo player. I’m sure there is a lot to it than just her weird accent and energetic lively personality. This means the rest of the characters from Setouchi are so generic that you would probably have a greater chance of identifying them on the butt techniques they pull off rather than their character. I mean, can you tell me more about Kazane and Non themselves rather than their butt scanning hand or super bouncy soft butt respectively? So the rest of the other characters seemingly follow the shonen type of route. Because of the tournament setting of trying to be the best of the best, expect lots of b*thces and b*tching moments too. Then you fight them, then you become friends later. Who cares about all that when you have butts and boobs to ogle at?! Viva butts! Viva boobs! Viva swimsuits! Yeah, at least these girls have such fine asses…

Art and animation wise, nothing out of the ordinary. You’ll be so enthralled looking at those butts and boobs that you won’t notice anything else. Of course they don’t want you to be looking at all the same butts so with a decent variety of colourful character designs coming in all shapes, sizes and accessories (why the f*ck does Muromachi need to even wear a freaking masquerade ball mask?), it gives a little bit more variety. Animated by Xebec who did To Love-Ru series, Triage X, Haiyore! Nyaruko-san, MM!, Ladies Versus Butler, Rio: Rainbow Gate, Kanokon, Softenni and Maken-Ki. Yeah, how kind of me to only list down all the fanservice and perverted anime series they did.

I didn’t give much focus on the voice acting since you know, we’re so focused on the butts. At least I did recognize Ayako Kawasumi as Maya. Not that it matters anyway. So to make this blog not sound it is talking about butts and boobs in every paragraph, I’m obliged to do this. Seriously. The rest of the casts I didn’t recognize are Lynn as Nozomi (Maya in Sabagebu), Mao as Miyata (titular character in Space Patrol Luluco), Kaede Hondo as Kazane (Kukuru in Fushigi Na Somera-chan), Saori Oonishi as Non (Aiz in DanMachi), Hibiku Yamamura as Kusakai (Hibiki in Anne Happy), Shizuka Ishigami as Fujisaki (Renge in Kyoukai No Rinne), Rena Maeda as Kawai (Nike in Soredemo Sekai Wa Utsukushii), Rie Takahashi as Rin (Megumin in Kono Subarashii Sekai Ni Shukufuku Wo), Minami Tanaka as Tsukishita (Agari in Shakunetsu No Takkyuu Musume), Mabuki Andou as Ujibe (Balsa in Seirei No Moribito) and Masamu Asano as Shirayuki (Hakufu in Ikkitousen). There are lots of other casts due to the sheer amount of minor characters but I’m too lazy so I’ll leave them out :-/.

The fast paced rock opening theme, DreamxScramble by Airi gets you into the mood and pace of this series. The ending theme, Fatas/Hip Girlfriends are sung by the main quartet of room 309 (if you still remember this room number that doesn’t make any more significance after the quartet advanced to the next level). Typical generic anime pop. Making the ending credits animation odder is we see this quartet chasing after a swimsuit being blown away in the wind. It’s like God is being a pervert and made it ‘fly’. Yeah, the lengths the girls would have to go through to retrieve it. And as proof that God is really a pervert in this anime, a giant cloud that resembles a voluptuous butt in the sky after the Nozomi gets back her swimsuit. A happy ending for them, a happy ending for us.

Depending on your stance in life, you may or may not like a series filled with only butts and on occasion boobs. In today’s era we live in where political correctness is so overrated, sometimes I feel the producers were bold enough to f*ck all that and go ahead to produce something that ordinary guys would decently (oh, the irony) enjoy. Some may scorn the cheap ass baiting fanservice trick to lure viewers in because might as well go watch full hardcore hentai instead of this softcore porn. Whatever your view on butts, remember each of us has one so there is nothing to be ashamed of. Whether you like it or not, you’ll be stuck with that same bum for the rest of your life. Unless butt liposuction… I just hope all this in the end won’t turn out to become the butt of all jokes because I feel like I can make lots of bum jokes and puns. But that would really be butt hurting.

Okay. It’s that time again where we take a look at a list of sports that has yet to be turned into an all-male or in this case all-female underdog team. We have a bunch of girls taking on kendo and then in mahjong. What other sports do you think should get this treatment? Oh yes. Ping pong! And hence, that is how Shakunetsu No Takkyuu Musume was born and conceived. I think. But wait. Wasn’t there a ping pong themed anime a very long time ago? You know, a series about a male’s ping pong club filled with weirdo and wacky losers? The club that did anything and everything except play ping pong except for a couple of occasions? No? Didn’t see that? Didn’t even know it existed? Yeah, screw all that. We’re going to make an all-female ping pong club anyway. What else could go wrong if you have an entire team of females, right?

Episode 1
Everyone is in utter shock and disbelief that the girls’ ping pong powerhouse, Oudou Academy lost. Because they are the champions for 9 consecutive years and this is just the first round of the group stage that their captain lost in straight sets without getting a single point! OMG! They can’t believe it! They even cannot accept their loss to an unknown debutant. Guess what? The opponent just went down on her knees and give thanks for a good match. But with a devilish smile. It leaves the captain crying. Oh… Why does this remind me of Donald Trump winning the US presidency? Of course this gives hope to other teams that it is their turn to claim the crown. At Suzumegahara Junior High, Agari Kamiya is the school’s top ping pong player as she beats next best player Hanabi Tenka. Completing the top 4 are Hokuto Itsumo and Munemune. With other girls as avid admirers of Agari, it is no wonder why she would want to safeguard her top spot. Dreaming of a legion of fans? Like an idol? They hear news that Hayabusa Academy rode the wave of their luck by dethroning Oudou but Agari has no interest since their school didn’t participate (they were ruled out during the qualifiers) but will make it to the next stage next time. Next day as Agari head to school early, she sees this very shy girl, Koyori Tsumujikaze stuck on a gate. She is a new transfer student. Because she ‘saved’ her, Koyori becomes close to her. More like sticking like a leech. Upon learning Agari is part of the ping pong club, Koyori becomes excited as she loves ping pong. Agari agrees to play a demo match with her. She notices Koyori is able to return shots that are almost impossible to take. Agari could have lost if not for the other club members streaming in. Koyori cowers behind Agari as she is just intimidated by everyone and everything. Including Munemune’s giant racks. Koyori ends up in the same class with Agari. It’s a good thing because Hanabi keeps bugging her to be friends.

The newspaper club interviews Agari. She tells them they have never made it to the Nationals and at best are only local champions. She is confident she will lead the team there this year. They hear a commotion from the clubroom. Koyori easily defeated a tenth ranked player and as per club rules, she now officially occupies this spot. When other girls start admiring Koyori, this makes Agari jealous. Somebody is stealing her spotlight now. Munemune challenges her next. At first it looks like Munemune has no sweat getting points over Koyori. But the tables start to change when Koyori has figured out Munemune’s weakness and capitalizes on it. Because of her stocky build and huge boobs, she gets tired easily if made to run around. Because of this, Koyori wins 11-8. Munemune knows Koyori’s background. She is the prefectural semi-finalist in her previous school. This sends alarm bells ringing for Agari because her personal best is just the quarter-finals. When other girls start thinking she could be their new ace and now clamour around her like a new hot pop star, it’s time for Agari to hit the panic button. Her top spot is under threat!

Episode 2
Now that Koyori is in fourth place, Agari feels the threat closing in. Today Koyori challenges Hokuto. She learns about her strange ability that she can tell and ‘extract’ data by looking at their racquet rubbers. Including what panties you’re wearing today. I kid you not. As the match begins, it looks like Hokuto is easily trumping Koyori and making a big lead. This is because of her other ability in which she can see the angles and success percentage to return. Is she some sort of robot? Both sides are exhausted and during this long rally, Koyori gets her groove back by just enjoying the game. This means more smiles and happy faces. In turn, this throws Hokuto off. In the end, Koyori makes a great come back defeating her 11-9. Next day, Agari comes to the clubroom only to see Koyori there practising by herself. So now she is also losing her punctuality record? When Koyori suggests practising together, fear flashes across her mind as she gives excuses why she can’t. Agari continues to avoid her. Before you know it, Koyori is already playing Hanabi who is a master of returning shots at greater speeds. Like a smash? Like history repeating itself, Hanabi starts off well but Koyori makes a comeback and wins it. The girls hound around Koyori. Koyori still scared to bits. Agari continues to be deeply troubled. Oh no. Looks like there’s a new idol in town. Empty seats for our current top idol. And she’s crying about it. Hey, it’s only natural for the weak to flock to the strong. When Agari requests to practice with Munemune, Koyori thinks she hates her. Hanabi believes Agari is a nice girl deep down despite her thorny exterior and is sure preparing a special move to counter her. Munemune notices Agari is trying to focus on her backhand techniques. She believes this has higher winning chance but Munemune wonders if she is enjoying playing the game. She knows Agari always practised hard and thus effort will never betray her. So please don’t look so pained. With renewed confidence, Agari now challenges Koyori.

Episode 3
Flashback shows Agari’s mom always tell her to aim for the top and be number one. It’s more of a goofy encouragement rather than strict dictatorship. They like being at the top so much so it is reflected in Agari’s name. But reality is different as she is always mediocre till she found her calling in ping pong. The match for the top spot begins. Agari doesn’t waste time using her loop drive and ending it with a backhand smash. There’s an explanation what it is as well as some facts about Agari being 1 of the 4 elites specializing in this drive ability but I’m not really eager to know all that crap. Agari makes a great lead and with the girls coming back to cheer on her, Agari again starts to feel good. This is how it should be. But seeing her determined face, Koyori suddenly gets this excited feeling. She is able to return Agari’s smash. It is no big deal since Agari’s smash was never lethal in the first place. Agari is now sweating. Koyori is able to counter her smashes. That is when Koyori says she loves ping pong because she gets to see her opponents’ face up close and tell what kind of person they are. She can tell Agari is sharp and determined. When Koyori manages to climb her way back and tie the score, Agari too starts feeling that excitement in her heart. She realizes her love for ping pong and abandons her backhand smash to revert to her usual forehand smash. It feels good. In the end, Koyori wins 11-9 and becomes the new ace. Both congratulate and thank each other for a great game. Agari tried to put up a tough front but Koyori’s warmth breaks it down. While it is no surprise that the girls are all excited over their new champ, all isn’t loss for Agari because some girls also admire how amazing she is. See, you don’t have to be number 1 to get the cheers. Later when Munemune visits the club captain’s house and explains how amazing and valuable Koyori is, I guess it is time for Kiruka Ushirode to return to the team since her foot injury has been healed.

Episode 4
Koyori might be best in ping pong but just like Agari, she sucks in everything else. It seems Agari and Koyori have been playing each other ever since and the top spot has been trading hands like a volatile stock market. This time Agari wins. Their face off record stands at a tie, 7-7. But Munemune notices Koyori is on a losing streak. Like as though she is lacking some sort of special move. She then announces that Kiruka will return tomorrow. Koyori wonders how the captain is like so Hanabi explains she and Agari used to fiercely contest for the top spot before her injury side-lined her. When they head into the clubroom, they already see how amazing she is taking on 2 practice robots. And she even finds it boring! Koyori is introduced but as usual becomes super shy. This makes Kiruka want to tease her. A lot. For many of the other girls, this is also their first time seeing Kiruka. As the tournament is coming up, she wants to hold a match for the team roster and play every one of them. It is her way to gauge their skills. Whoever beats her gets an automatic spot. Of course knowing this isn’t just an ordinary battle, there is a catch. Those who lose to her must wear cat ears for the entire day as penalty. I guess this is better than putting on embarrassing cosplay outfits. But as she is the best player, surely nobody has any chance, right? That is why she will give them a handicap. As she has no stamina for a full match, if anyone can score a point before she scores 5, they win. And you guessed it, all the girls lost (because of her chop attack special) and the only ones left are Agari and Koyori. At this point Kiruka is feeling bored. I mean, nobody could even beat her. She even mentions about their bleak chances of reaching the Nationals at this rate. The truth, right? But this is where Agari stands up and tells her otherwise. They have been practising hard to do so and this time they will make it. You better mean what you say because you’re up next as this has stimulated Kiruka.

Episode 5
So the most anticipated match begins with Kiruka and Agari playing an intense rally. With the thought of aiming for the Nationals, this has Koyori thinking that all she wanted was to have fun playing ping pong and never thought of aiming for the Nationals. Because if she goes there, she’ll meet even more players and have more fun. Kiruka has also the tightest defence as she is able to counter whatever smash Agari throws at her. But it is finally Agari’s forehand smash that breaks it as she wins the game. Yay! Agari makes the team! It is all thanks to Koyori because she made her realize this is her better move as she got Munemune to help practice it after her first defeat. Kiruka finally takes on Koyori. She gets to see her play style and it seems she notices Koyori enjoying herself. This in turn makes Kiruka enjoy her game. In the end Koyori beats Kiruka. Kiruka lets out a maniacal laughter. Is she tired after double defeats? Maybe she’s glad that there are some worthy players. However Agari doesn’t feel the win was worth it because Koyori has been playing 18 players before them and scoring 5 points each straight. So by the time she reached time, it might have zapped some of her stamina. Of course this isn’t Koyori’s best as her serious skill comes when she is playing doubles. Guess who her partner is. If Kiruka says she might not be perfect but won’t lose if Munemune is with her… With everyone dreaming for the Nationals, this has Kiruka remember that when she first joined the club, she told everyone that she wanted to become number one and win the Nationals. Why is everybody looking so shocked? You mean they aren’t aiming or expecting this? Munemune likewise stated her goal same as Kiruka. Kiruka has scheduled a practice match with Mozuyama Junior High. They are a local powerhouse that reached the Nationals last year.

Episode 6
Agari is mad at Koyori because her smashes are no more lethal than before. Is she losing her form? Hokuto takes a look at her paddle and realizes the rubber is worn out. Well, I’m not sure if this gives her the ability to tell a player’s skills but apparently rubber can have her tell what panties you’re wearing too. I’m not kidding. Because Hokuto’s family runs a ping pong shop, she is very eager to sell some goods. However Koyori has no money and Hokuto shies away. Money face? Hanabi suggests helping her out at the store as she always complains about being understaffed. Of course with Koyori being a super shy girl, you wonder if she can pull through this as she mans the register. Remember the breathing exercise Hokuto told you. Though, it is mostly for pregnant women. Don’t ask. Then this gothic zombie weirdo comes in to buy stuffs. She has also earned enough card points to exchange a bunny t-shirt. The way she loves it is so creepy… I’m surprised Koyori isn’t scared out of her daylights. Later Koyori sees how Hokuto is an expert in analysing rubber and suggesting what goods her customers should get. Seeing that Hanabi is an expert in gluing and replacing rubber, Koyori gets motivated to work harder. Later their club members drop by to hang out although Kiruka claims Agari wanted to see Koyori and is worried about her. Like that ace would ever admit it. With the friends being rowdy, this reminds Hokuto of her past where she will always refuse her friends’ offer to hang out as she has to go home to help out with her store. Only Hanabi was interested in what she is doing and became impressed. It was then they became best friends and Hanabi offered to help out so she could finish her work faster and have more time to have fun together. When somebody accidentally knocks the goods off the shelves, everyone else comes to help out. Why? Because they’re friends.

Episode 7
As Koyori has worked her part, why is Hokuto seems forceful to give her deserved rubber? As she doesn’t know which to pick, Hokuto chooses for her. A springy rubber that makes her smashes feel pleasant and more lethal. That way, she can enjoy the game more. The girls head to Mozuyama and meet the ping pong’s captain, Zakuro Zashikiwarashi who is quite nervous and tongue tied. Remember that gothic zombie girl? Yup. She’s in this club. As weird as she can get, Kururi Futamaru likes to insert death into her sentences. A pun of desu? Plus, you can tell she has hots for Zakuro as the way she melts when Zakuro is being nice to her. Koyori is stuck on the toilet door (trying to get out since her lock was spoiled) and Kururi sees this thinks she is a pervert. Koyori tries to have a good sportsmanship so Kururi questions her why does she play ping pong for. For Kururi, she plays for Zakuro and is willing to die for it! Woah. Calm down. It’s only ping pong, right? The first practice match pits Hanabi against Sachiko Sasorida (the scorpion girl?). It seems Sasorida’s teammates don’t give a f*cks about cheering for her. Hanabi strikes fast and wins the first 2 sets. But then it is Sasorida’s turn to fight back by the third set. By nullifying Hanabi’s speed drive, Sasorida is forcing her to make errors and thus makes a comeback to win the remaining sets for her team. Not that her teammates care anyway. The next match has Hokuto versus Yura Yuragi (the swaying girl?). Hokuto’s quest to avenge Hanabi’s lost takes a backseat when Yuragi takes the first set.

Episode 8
Hokuto may have clawed her way back to force a rubber set. However it is clear that she is tired. Yuragi having more stamina and even having that similar vision ability like Hokuto clearly has the advantage. As predicted, Hokuto lost. Of course she feels guilty for losing but Hanabi commends her for a great game. Time for the only doubles match. It is Kiruka-Munemune against the chuunibyou Myuu Kanenashi and the nibbling Kimiko Hamu. At first the Suzumegahara pair takes the first set. However the Mozuyama counterpart easily takes the second. So while this gives them confidence that their wall is unbreakable, Kiruka notices Munemune not playing her true style because she is worried about Kiruka’s ankle injury. She reminds her that she is undefeatable with her. Also about their dream to become number one and win the Nationals. Because they couldn’t achieve their dreams as a single player, they realize they are unbeatable as a pair because they cover each other’s weaknesses. With this, they get their groove back and blow away their opponents! Hamu is literally scared of Munemune’s tiger aura! Suzumegahara wins the remaining sets and the game. With Mozuyama’s first defeat, this signals Kururi to have more practice to death training! Oh dear. That’s why winning is everything. Kiruka and Munemune’s win allows Agari a chance to face Zakuro.

Episode 9
It seems Zakuro is able to keep pace with Agari and nullify her forehand smashes. Zakuro is able to catch up and tie with Agari’s score till a point where she can overtake her. Time for a flashback 2 years ago. When Kururi joined the ping pong club 2 years ago, all members were thrilled she came from the famed ping pong school of Karasuma. Of course the seniors looked down on her and decided to show who’s boss by playing her. Kururi destroyed them and made them resigned from the club. The rest draw inspiration from it and hope Kururi could help train them to achieve their dream of becoming overnight stars by going to the Nationals. Well, nobody warned them they asked for it. Because unfortunately Kururi started to devise a very strict Spartan training and they got more than they bargained for. They became afraid of her and also resigned. This left Kururi sad and confused. Wasn’t this what they asked for? Why do they have to leave? Alone again. Naturally. Even zombies can cry. But hope returns when Zakuro continued to remain because despite her hard training, she wants to play awesome ping pong like her. This made Kururi ‘drool from her eyes’. Geddit? At this point Zakuro now leads the sets 2-1. With things getting desperate in the fourth set, Agari decides to make a drastic change and use her backhand smash. It succeeds and shocks Zakuro. She wins the set and now the final decisive set is at hand. This time Agari switched and mixed up her forehands and backhands to pull ahead and win the final set. Despite the loss, Zakuro felt she played a great match. Before Koyori and Kururi’s match begins, Koyori answers her question of why she plays ping pong. She wants to feel and share the excitement of the game with everybody. Well, not the best of answers. Anyhow, Kururi will beat anybody who challenges her to death! Cue for mad zombie mode on! It’s like Kururi has this super power skill because when Koyori returns her screw ball, Kururi doesn’t even have to touch it. She turns her back and some tornado aura blows it away! WTF???!!!

Episode 10
Each time Koyori hits back, her ball swiftly changes trajectory. Yeah, there’s some explanation about her curve drive but I’ll take it as some exaggerated flashy move. With this technique, Kururi is quickly leaving Koyori in the dust and easily takes the first 2 sets. However before the third set begins, suddenly Kururi has this dreaded feeling. Something bad is about to happen. Yeah. Because this is when the main heroine makes a comeback. Apparently Koyori might have look like she is randomly smashing back but this was actually to find her sweet spot. As per her training with Agari who taught her to find the best place to return a shot, that is what a sweet spot is. And it is in this third set that Koyori finally finds her sweet spot and counters Kururi’s curve drive. Once that is defeated, Kururi starts to panic. Uh huh. A short flashback from her side how Zakuro advised her to develop this habit into her asset. Unfortunately Kururi continues to worry like hell. She fears she will lose Zakuro’s smile and the right to be with her if she loses. This allows Koyori to claw her way back up and tie the sets. And as expected, the final set that will decide it all. Because Kururi is still worried, Zakuro had to go calm her and tell her to play her own brand of ping pong. That is the brand she loves. This gives her motivation to fight back and while she looked desperate in doing random smashes, she is actually trying to do what Koyori earlier did. But she’s not finding her sweet spot but rather trying to evolve her curve drive. The mistakes she makes gives Koyori free points. By the time Kururi manages to pull off her ultimate curve driver, surprisingly Koyori is able to counter that. Match is set and the game goes to Koyori and Suzumegahara wins it! Hmm… Don’t you see a pattern here? The entire game and even the individual matches are won by the margin of 3-2. Only the doubles match was won by 3-1. Kururi wallows in despair but Zakuro hugs her. Despite she lost, it was a great game and everyone was motivated seeing her play. Even zombie girls can cry. Suzumegahara leaves as both sides thank each other for a great game. Kururi now feels playing with Koyori makes her excited and she vows to become stronger the next time and everything will be more exciting. First time seeing her smile. Even zombie girls can smile too.

Episode 11
What’s next after a practice match? Training camp! But before they leave, they are shocked with the appearance of Kumami Tsukinowa. Who is she? An ex-ping pong club member who transferred out shortly before Koyori transferred in. Let’s say she left to another school for greener pastures. It might seem she is here to show off her ventriloquism but perhaps she is jealous Agari has somebody new close to her? Because she gives her a big hug but Agari not into such lesbian practice, pushes her away. Agari thought she is here to settle the score but Kumami apologizes she can’t play with her anymore. So with the training camp on the way, Kiruka plays with Agari and because the latter is still being bothered by Kumami, she can’t focus and her smashes are now easily countered and ineffective. As they soak in the hotspring, they note about Kumami in a powerhouse ping pong school, Tsubame Girls’ Academy who is way better than Mozuyama. That night Agari can’t sleep and it is obvious that Kumami is still occupying her mind. Time to let the cat out of the bag. At least for Koyori to know. Tsubame is a school not just for rich girls but as said a powerhouse in ping pong. The club’s captain lured Kumami there. She is the only daughter of the school’s board director and her family runs loads of ping pong halls. This means she can get whatever she wants. On the day Kumami left Suzumegahara, she is supposed to play a farewell match with Agari but declined. But even a month before that, Kumami stopped playing with her. So Agari thought she showed up for that but it wasn’t the case. It frustrates Agari because she wanted to play her. Of course they will still bump into Tsubame in the district qualifiers if they want to make it to the Nationals. As for what Agari can do to improve herself, Koyori suggests making her smashes more lethal. They get their well-deserved sleep and the next morning they are pumped up for practice.

Episode 12
The training camp continues. Hokuto and Hanabi play with each other to improve since they are the only ones who lost. Agari and Koyori also play each other. In Koyori’s desperate bid to help Agari improve her lethal smash, she sits on her shoulder. WTF?! Somehow all the silliness has the juniors motivated to practice harder. Train hard, train hard, train hard, not forgetting Munemune boobs time, more training, more training, soak in hotspring, more training so much so they’re practising their swings while sleeping! On the last day of the camp, it is a free schedule and everyone can do whatever they want. Of course this means everyone is up to practice more ping pong. Agari and Koyori train a couple of juniors as they are ecstatic to be taught by them. With more people coming in to train, it soon turns into a mini competition. As expected, Agari and Koyori face off each other in the finals and Agari wins it with her super fast lethal smash. Everybody feels good about their improvement and chances. And so here we are at the start of the real tournament.

Balls Of Fury
Although it is only a dozen of episodes, unfortunately it wasn’t really interesting enough for me to really want to beg or even look forward to a sequel. To be honest, the story was pretty bland and unexciting and because this is only the first season, it focused more about the new kid in town and the practice with a local powerhouse. That is all. Forgive me if you are going to hear me compare this to Saki a few times because I think that is what I believe how a sports tournament is supposed to play out. I may still not like the mahjong game but I’ll be referring to mostly the story and the characters.

Let’s start off with the story. Like I have said that this season is nothing more than trying to build up the base of the underdog, namely Suzumegahara. Also like I have mentioned earlier on, this series only has one season for now. Unlike Saki who has a couple of seasons and another couple of seasons for its spin-offs. So you could see that the flow and pace of their story and plot have been gradually played out. Yes, Saki is still the typical cliché sports tournament story of the underdog surpassing the powerhouse. But for this series, nothing has really begun. That last scene doesn’t really count because it just feels like to fire us all up that the series has ended. And if you remember ex-Suzumegahara player, Kumami, that feels like just a setup for future plots. Nothing much for now.

Then you have the characters. I find them uninteresting despite some of the characters have really weird personalities to make them stick out. The thing is, Saki in addition to the main underdog school, has got a host of rival schools to play with. This means more characters and more weirdoes who will be appearing. But here, you have only got Suzumegahara and Mozuyama. That’s it. So far we only have a single screen glimpse of Kumami and her Tsubame comrades in the final scenes and this doesn’t really amount to anything.

So for the past dozen episodes, no doubt we have some background information on our Suzumegahara girls like Hokuto’s family running a ping pong store as well as Kiruka and Munemune’s promise and dream to become number one ping pong players. However all these are just scratching the surface and nothing really too deep. As for the characters themselves, you have mostly the cliché stereotypes like the prideful top player, the very shy newcomer genius, the tomboy, the socially awkward, the boobs monster and the club president. In light of this, Hokuto ‘stands out’ more than the rest because of her strange habit of calling others except Hanabi by what kind of panties they wear! You don’t hear her call their real names as she continues to address them in their underwear colour and type! It is already ridiculous she can tell what kind of panties you’re wearing from the paddle you’re holding. Therefore theoretically if she keeps calling a certain someone the same panties nickname all the while, does this mean she is always wearing that same type?! Wow. They don’t change patterns, do they? Oh, this is supposed to be a ping pong anime… With Kumami’s appearance as a teaser, it might curious you to know their relationship but it fizzles out once the training camp begins. This makes it feel that her character is redundant for this season although like I’ve said it is to setup future encounters. If that is ever going to happen. I hate to say this but I think Mozuyama has more interesting characters than Suzumegahara. From zombie girl to that hamster girl who can’t stop nibbling (she never stops!) to that girl who just can’t stop swaying (she’s always swaying!) to that chuunibyou girl to that scorpion girl, don’t they look more like an interesting bunch?

In the end, despite all the training camp and practice together, somehow I just feel the Suzumegahara aren’t that close enough. Even with Agari and Koyori practising more often lately, I just feel that their bond isn’t really there. This again compared to their Saki counterparts. I suppose because the characters feel lacking in this overall personality, their bond and friendship don’t really resonate throughout and reach us. Although it is good that Agari has overcome her complex of being at the best and focus her goals to become a better player instead of protecting her own top spot and limelight. Because if you’re already number one, you’ll definitely have all that. In short, the girls aren’t really memorable in the long run (except Munemune’s boobs) and even I questioned myself if I am able to support them if they get another season and advanced to deeper rounds of the tournament.

More importantly for a sports genre anime is to have the feature of the game itself. Now, if you have watched Saki, you would have been flabbergasted by the amount of sheer nonsense and exaggeration when those lolis play their hands. For a guy like me who didn’t understand a single thing about the game, those visual exaggerations are a source of entertainment delight. Each player too has their own signature moves. Now compare the mahjong girls to this ping pong girls, the matches aren’t as exciting because we mainly see them hit the balls back and forth. Sure, there are a few delusional exaggerations but this is far few in between. They play up the drama of hitting the balls back and forth like as though there is some sort of intensity but I don’t really feel all that.

The ping pong girls also have their signature moves but they are boring and not memorable to begin with. Like Agari’s smash. I don’t really see anything special about it. At least she didn’t display some flashy move. If you watched Prince Of Tennis, you can see how each player can perform physics defying moves. I know we can blame to small arena and table for them not being able to pull off such acrobatic feats but that’s beside the point. And many of the matches, because they have to play multiple sets to win, many of them are skipped. Imagine if you have to watch the same scene for every game. Watching every point scored by the player. That would be so boring. Given how the girls already lack many special moves and skills, doing so would only turn this series into a snooze fest. So yeah, the ping pong matches aren’t entertaining because no flashy exaggerated moves for me to b*tch about.

Animated by Kinema Citrus, this series has its characters look more like Yuyushiki, another series they animated. You know, those kawaii and cute kind. Though, the art style of the characters may closely resemble to those in Saki but with seemingly less quality. One thing that bugged me about their artwork is when they animate the sweat on the girls’ t-shirts. I have a feeling they’re trying to give a realism feeling instead of fanservice but each time I see the sweat marks on their t-shirt, they look like mud. Dirty. Uh huh. As though they’ve gone into some mild mud wrestling or something. It’s pretty obvious and I can’t take my focus away from it. Hypnotizing… Munemune’s boobs are more than enough fanservice, though…

I didn’t recognize a single seiyuu here. Well, the main casts are mostly newbies or unknowns with not a long list of anime roles to their names. So we have Yumiri Hanamori as Koyori (Hanako in Anne Happy), Minami Tanaka as Agari (Tsukishita in Keijo), Yuuki Kuwahara as Hokuto (Hakua in Shomin Sample), Marika Kouno as Hanai (Rin in Sore Ga Seiyuu), Ayaka Imamura as Munemune (Yuriko in Sakurako-san No Ashimoto Ni Wa Shitai Ga Umatteiru), Hisaka Toujou as Kiruka (Aiha in Noragami Aragoto), Shiori Izawa as Kururi (Saya in Gakusen Toshi Asterisk), Nozomi Furuki as Zakuro (Yukari in The Rolling Girls) and Reina Ueda as Kumami (Mira in Dimension W).

The opening theme sounds weird. Shakunetsu Switch by the main casts of Suzumegahara’s ping pong club girls feels like it is trying to appeal to sound cute. I’m not sure if this kind of song is fitting but given the genre and comedy aspects of the series, I guess in a way it fits. The ending theme, Bokura No Frontier is a mixed reception. At some parts it feels slow, some parts feel like they are sleepy while singing the song and others feel like a generic pop idol song. It is no surprise that the idol group, Wake Up Girls sang this song as you might noticed that some of them here have a voice acting role in this series.

Overall, perhaps if this series gets more sequels, I can draw better conclusions if it is a worthy sports genre to watch. However with the bland first season, things aren’t looking good. A lot of things feel plain and nothing that gives you that extra excitement to go watch or cheer on the girls. Oddly, I feel as though the girls put in so much practice in ping pong but yet they’ll lose out to those idiots in Teekyuu who hardly pick up their racquet. Yeah… It would be bad if they did any other random stuffs other than ping pong because it would further damage the series. At this rate even that old male counterpart ping pong series seem to fare better overall. I used to play ping pong in my younger days but only as recreation and not competitive. This series not only fail to ignite any sort of passion for me to take up the game (not that I was hoping it would anyway) but it also made me feel I don’t want to remember all those nostalgic ping pong days. Because I suck. If I take this up, I’m sure to embarrass myself even more. Instead of agari (rise), I go sagari (fall). I’m so unfit as an anime couch potato these days.

If human had shoes that could fly, imagine the endless possibilities and experiences that we would be having right now. Lots of fun. Lots of excitement. Lots of accidents. Lots of mishaps. Lots of fatalities… Yeah… If we humans can’t even properly drive on the road without being huge idiots, what more flying? Anyway we aren’t here to talk about the bad stuffs on what if humans could fly. And if Nike ever made shoes that could really fly, they would of course have made a sport out of it. Too bad you won’t find Nike sponsoring such shoes in Ao No Kanata No Four Rhythm. This series is basically a sports genre with sci-fi elements in it. You put on your shoes that allow you to fly and go play some air game which is what this series revolves around. And of course being a sports genre, you would have expected one of the two: 1) A newcomer into the sport who impresses everyone with her exceptional talents in the sport despite playing for the first time with no prior experience; 2) The tale of the underdog team who will rise up against favourite teams and beat the odds. This series has both. That being said, we all know how the plot will progress, right?

Episode 1
Masaya Hinata helps new transfer student Asuka Kurashina to find her lost house keys. Ditzy girl has been complaining so loud about it of course anybody would stop to help. After finding it, Asuka is surprised to see Misaki Tobisawa flying by. She is Masaya’s friend and classmate at Kunahama Institute. They have to rush to school or else they will feel the embarrassing wrath of their strict homeroom teacher, Aoi Kagami. It is cool that they could fly to school but why the heck do they have to run up the slope into school?! Can’t they just fly in?! Who made this stupid rule?! Anyway they made it in time. As expected, Asuka ends up in the same class as Masaya and Misaki. Since she is annoyingly friendly with them, Kagami makes them her instructor. Misaki acts differently like as though she has a split personality. As explained by fellow classmate, Madoka Aoyagi, due to her low blood pressure, she acts different in the mornings and afternoons. Completing the group is Mashiro Arisaka. Self-proclaimed slave and yuri lover wannabe for Misaki. Read: Another b*tch character. As a newbie, they teach Asuka how to fly with the Grav-Shoes. Of course as a noob she fails badly that it is pathetic. That is why she pleads for Masaya to be stricter and use Spartan techniques. Sure she can handle it? I know it is to help her learn faster but doesn’t that make her sound like a masochist? After a hard day of training, she returns to her room. Masaya didn’t think he got a new neighbour. Oh, it’s Asuka. And she is just changing in her undies! Cue for scream…

Another day of pathetic training… How long will it take before she can decently fly? On the way back, she sees Madoka’s brother, Shion being defeated by Reiko Satouin in a Flying Circus (FC) (some sort of flying sport which is the theme of this series). Asuka misinterprets their school name will be changed so she confronts her to challenge her in FC. Oh, did you know that Takafuji Academy that Reiko is from is the powerhouse of FC? Yet, Asuka is being honest with her noob skills that you wonder if she is making an insult or can be taken seriously. And so for the sake of us viewers too, Asuka is explained how the game works. Within a ring, you either touch your opponent’s back or touch buoys in order to score points. The one scoring the most points in the allotted time wins. Simple, right? Reiko sets a handicap for her and even shortens the game play. Of course as it starts, Asuka can’t even move and it’s like she’s making a fool out of herself while Reiko zooms past her competitor and scoring points with ease. Masaya takes over Misaki as Second (ground coach) and relays instructions on what to do. It looked like it worked but Reiko is a veteran and dodges it. Just when everything seems to just fail for Asuka, she remembers something of her past then she powers up like as though she activated her hidden talent to score a point by touching Reiko’s back with an air kick turn.

Episode 2
Based on the handicap rules, it is Asuka’s win since she was able to get a point. Everyone is amazed at her skill because an air kick turn is very hard to pull off. Before Shion starts getting emotional about their victory, better run away while you can. News about Asuka’s win spread like wildfire and even though it was just an unofficial match, it is still like David beating Goliath. Madoka is so impressed as she tries to scout Asuka, Misaki and Mashiro to join her FC club that only she and Shion are part of. Asuka eagerly joins because of the free drinks? Misaki joins perhaps to rekindle her love for the sport she retired from. Mashiro? Wherever Misaki goes, she goes. So the clubroom is some dirty abandoned bus? Since Asuka has joined the club, Masaya doesn’t have to be her instructor anymore. But why the sad face? Deja vu again when Masaya returns home and sees Asuka changing. Cue for screaming. Doesn’t she know how to use curtains? The newbies train on their first day but since they tire out easily, it is suggested they get some competitive gear. Madoka as the manager takes them to a store to shop for their gear. I wonder how this little shop assistant girl, Minamo is going to sell the products when she is so shy and hiding behind mannequins while explaining things. Eventually they get the gears they want. Next day, Misaki wants a duel with Asuka because she and everybody else want to see her air kick turn again. Shion becomes Misaki’s Second and since Masaya was passing by, Kagami makes him Asuka’s coach. The match starts as Misaki furiously racks up the points and Asuka displaying her usual klutz. When it is time for her to do the air turn kick, seems she falters. This has others think it was just beginner’s luck. Misaki continues to add up to her points tally by repetitively touching Asuka’s back. By the time Asuka is able to get all that motivation to fight back and get a point, time is over. Misaki wins 9-0. Asuka is of course sad about her loss and wants Masaya to stay as her Second. Okay. At least till the summer tournament. Kagami then calls the Takafuji side that since they have enough members now, she would love to hold a joint training camp.

Episode 3
We skip the training of the joint camp so we can have some bathing fanservice! Oh yeah. Why waste time? Misaki becomes the first victim of Reiko’s back washing. We’ll leave it up to your imagine how she got screwed. Masaya meets Takafuji’s captain, Kazunari Shindou. He mentions about his dream of playing a certain someone he idolized in FC but that person faded away from the spotlight. He requests Masaya for a match but is turned down because he doesn’t play FC anymore. Shindou wonders why he came back to the sport again. Is it because of Asuka’s air turn kick? On the last day of the camp, we have practice matches for the representatives. Asuka goes up against Rika Ichinose. Shindou is a bit disappointed because he wanted to face Asuka and see her air turn kick. Despite Asuka improved a lot, she still has a lot more for improvement as Rika gives her the run around with her yoyo and zigzag tactics. When Rika is going to touch Asuka’s back, Asuka does her amazing air kick turn to touch hers. It was a good game despite Asuka lost 1-6. Next match is Mashiro against Reiko. Mashiro is already so scared shivering in her pants facing her that the producers didn’t even bother to show her match! Really. You want to watch how she lost 0-20!!! Finally it is Misaki up against Shindou. As expected, Shindou is freaking fast like Sonic. He is not the reigning world champion for nothing. He could have continued to use his speed to rack up points but I guess he got a little bored and tries to provoke Misaki. Masaya knows this tactic to rouse her up and not be baited to fall for it. But it is kinda hard when you have a guy who is as cocky. Masaya even had to cut her an udon buffet deal just so that she could listen to his instructions of focusing on defence instead of attacking. The rest of the match descends into one big game of tag with Misaki being able to keep up with Shindou. All that paid off when Misaki is able to touch his back once although in the end Shindou wins 4-1. If you’re wondering why Shion didn’t participate when he was supposed to, he was floored by stomach ache. Ate too much during the camp, didn’t he?

Episode 4
How the f*ck can Mashiro concentrate on he studies for the make-up test when fellow classmate Minori Hosaka is giving commentary all the way!!! In exchange for her aid to help her study. Minori gets to interview the FC club. Man, this woman never stops talking!!! With Asuka and Misaki improving a lot, this makes Mashiro worry that she will be left behind. Can she imagine a life without Misaki? No way!!! So desperate she is that she tries to practice alone one night but bumps into Rika and accidentally challenges her to a match. After hearing her out, Rika agrees to train her the basics. Mashiro diligently studies under her. In exchange for her kindness, she gets free udon meals from Mashiro’s parents who run such store. Heck, even mom wants Rika to be her daughter!!! Mashiro’s skills improved and though they are just the basics, tournament matches are another story. At the end of their unofficial training, they form a friendship as well as some sort of alliance. When Mashiro enters a practice match with Asuka, everyone is stunned to see how vastly she has improved. Even more surprising is how Mashiro has decided to go with the speeder style instead of the fighter style she wanted. Asuka continues to be a klutz and even gets distracted by Mashiro’s bluff. Needless to say, the latter won 4-0. At night when Asuka is about the fly home, she is startled by a message from her mom that she drops her handphone. Luckily a girl, Saki Inui was fast enough to swoop down and save it. Asuka is glad there are such nice people on this island. That monotonous cold face is friendly?

Episode 5
The summer tournament is here. Asuka and Shion are so excited that they act like monkeys. Public nuisance? While looking at the board for their match line-ups, Mashiro meets her childhood friend-cum-rival, Arika Okoza from Shitou Suisan. Her senior, Mayu Ganeko ‘punishes’ her for her lack of etiquette before others by getting yuri with each other. As expected, Minori becomes the commentator for the entire event. She’s got lots of energy in her mouth… You can’t blame Mashiro for being nervous because her fist round opponent is Reiko! Remember the last time, right? It is time to see whether her training pays off. Mashiro makes a good start, surprising Reiko. But as the game progresses, Reiko makes a comeback and wins 7-2. Despite the loss, everyone is proud of Mashiro’s improved skill. Next is Misaki against Rika. I’m sure Mashiro is torn to support which but she’ll support both anyway. Misaki wins 5-1. For the first time we get to see Shion in action. He takes on Saki from Kairyo Academy. Masaya cautions him as he has no data on her. He learns from Saki’s Second, Irina Avalon about Saki playing FC in England where FC was conceived. That must say a lot, right? Good or bad thing, we won’t see the full match because we already know Shion would lose right from the start when Saki zooms faster than him. In fact, he lost 1-22!!! I know he wants to forget that… Masaya notices Saki’s different Grav-Shoes. Irina says they are Avalon Grav-Shoes and her father makes them. It is now Asuka’s turn against Arika. The latter makes a good start at first and as expected, you’ll know Asuka will pull off something, right? She shocks everybody by doing an air kick turn while in tailspin. That turned the tables as Asuka goes on to win by a narrow margin 4-3.

Episode 6
Asuka is just fresh from defeating her second round opponent who looks like a typical anime witch character that we couldn’t care less about. The main highlight of the second round matches is Misaki versus Shindou. Misaki is expecting a good dogfight with him but Shindou zooms past her to rake in the points. Misaki puts her trust in Masaya to give her instructions to counter Shindou’s speed. It did pay off with her stealing a point but Shindou just uses it as acceleration and boost to grab his next point. When Misaki uses her air kick turn to touch his back, she becomes very much motivated to win this but time is over. Aww, shucks. Shindou wins 5-3. We skip all other matches to go to the third round because this is where Asuka will face off with Shindou. As usual, Shindou starts off good and fast. Asuka keeps a close tab in tailing him. Shindou pulls off super pro tactics like cobra and suicide to stun everybody and increase his points tally. When Asuka pulls off her signature air kick turn, Shindou uses that with a vertical air kick turn. But the most surprising move came when Asuka did her air kick turn again to score a point. And then again. And again. AND AGAIN!!! OMG! Five consecutive air kick turns to even the score with Shindou???!!! This makes Shindou who is already so freaking serious to be even more freaking serious. What’s the difference? You see his ‘mad’ face. Because he always fights in a cool and composed manner, having him fight this way means the opponent has pushed him to the ropes. A couple of beat downs till Shindou wins it 6-4. And that completes Kunahama’s wipe out from the tournament. Everyone is ecstatic with such enjoyable game play except for Misaki who has been in shock ever since. Shindou never go all out against her because she wasn’t that good?

Episode 7
We see Saki brushing off Mayu to enter the finals to face off with Shindou. In the mean time, Asuka has got lots of fans hogging around her thanks to her air kick turn move… Back to the match, both are equally matched when it slowly starts to become obvious that Shindou is having a hard time. Then it dawned to everyone else that Saki’s purpose is not to score points but to dominate over her opponent. Yup, Shindou’s mad face coming up so early in the match proves it so. Whatever tricks Shindou pulls off, Saki will always be faster and a step ahead. Game is set in Saki’s favour 3-2. This shock win leaves Misaki shock as well because she was brushing off her defeat and putting all her hopes in supporting Shindou as the best player, only to come to crashing into a brick wall. Even more shocking, Misaki sees Asuka beaming with smiles as the latter has enjoyed watching the match. Because of this, Misaki falls into depression and doesn’t take part in her club’s BBQ party in which Shion announces his captaincy over to Madoka (since she volunteered). We see Irina confronting Kagami about their ‘beautiful’ dominating play called birdcage. Apparently it was a move that Kagami once used too when she was an FC player but ‘sealed’ it to avoid the game from killing itself. More gloominess for Misaki as she goes out to town alone. She hears news of Shindou’s shock loss to a newcomer which could tarnish his reputation. When she bumps into him, he looks fine but with a tad of sadness although it is no big deal. What Shindou was afraid of is the fear of losing something he enjoyed, that was why he was desperate in the finals. That match made him realize FC is a sport in which any play style could stop being effective at any moment. If the fun in FC stops, he’ll quit. This pep talk leaves Misaki even gloomier. Yeah, she carries it over to the new term where our Kunahama FC club members are in for the first shock of the term: Misaki tenders her resignation letter.

Episode 8
The girls confront Misaki but she is fooling around not giving any real answers. After class, they try to trap her in but she is fast enough to give them the slip! It is over when she puts on her Grav-Shoes. Asuka manages to catch up. So what is Misaki’s excuse? She can’t fly anymore. As the club members discuss about this, Masaya just says to leave her alone and not put pressure. One evening when Misaki is hanging out in town, she bumps into Masaya who tells her he knows how he feels because he once ran away from FC. He was once a talented player and was even selected for the Nationals. Of course that heavy responsible made him fear losing as he was afraid to lose the fun he had. Around that time, a beginner challenged him to a match. Masaya lost and he quit FC altogether. It was just an excuse to distance himself from FC. But after that he learnt that running far away isn’t easy. I think Irina wants to show who is superior so she lands her helicopter in Kunahama to request for a practice match. Kagami turns her down in view of how sudden everything is. But with Asuka being an eager beaver to face Saki, she jumps at the chance. Right off from the start, Saki begins her birdcage manoeuvre. No matter what tactics Masaya and Asuka employ, Saki is always there to counter it. Saki is so perfect in all her counters that everyone noticed they send Asuka flying off at the exact angles! At this rate Asuka will only be tiring herself out. Asuka tries to shake Saki off but the latter is sticking as close as a leech. Asuka tries to do her air kick turn at this proximity in hopes of surprising her. Surprised, she dodges it and even counters her attack. Asuka tries another one but her Grav-Shoes gave way as she free falls into the sea. Misaki rescues her and we can tell that Asuka is shaken in more than one ways.

Episode 9
Asuka seems pretty fine. She is humming the tune of her old favourite mecha anime, Zephyrion! Even in school she is quite chirpy. Or is it? But something feels off because when Asuka practises FC, it is like she forgot all her basics and is even a beginner in flying! Asuka remembers when she was young, she met a young boy and often played with him. They became good friends. He introduced her to Zephyrion. But of course one day he had to leave and so he gave her his mecha figure. Misaki talks to Asuka. The latter feels scared about confronting her weakness ever since the match with Saki. Madoka gets a shock when she receives a letter from Asuka that she is taking leave from the club. At least she isn’t quitting. It gets ominous when she doesn’t respond her messages and her mom called that she isn’t home yet. Dark rainy day. Asuka wandering around. How ominous is that? Misaki picks her up and lets her stay in her place. Since Mashiro is pretty annoying trying to flirt with Misaki (especially her deluded yuri fantasies), she kicks her out. They go through Misaki’s photo album. Asuka notes a cute little boy. Nope. That is Misaki. Such tomboy… Misaki comes clean on why she left the club. Her insecurities when she lost to Shindou made her think she didn’t go all out on him. And when Shindou went serious with Asuka and lost to Saki, it got to her. It made her feel pathetic. Next day as they head to school, Asuka requests a match with Misaki. Madoka is surprised that her leave absence is only for a day. You expecting it to be longer? Both girls take their battle to the skies and rekindle that awesome and fun feeling they had in the sport. Misaki comes to terms that she was running away because she was afraid to lose something she found herself so dedicated to. She is still scared, though. As for Asuka, she always believed the answers will be in the sky. With that, Misaki rejoins the club. The girls discuss this Zephyrion thing and Asuka tries to describe that young boy. Like a female version of Masaya? Misaki too remembers something similar that she once played FC with that kid but since it was so long ago, they brush it off.

Episode 10
Irina and Saki were captivated when they saw Kagami’s dazzling light. Ever since they have been trying to perfect and surpass it. Masaya has the girls in various stamina training. But even with these regimens, he knows it will not be enough to overcome birdcage. Misaki does the impossible by waking up early before the alarm clock to head for practice. But Asuka is earlier and already practising. The girls also try calibrating their Grav-Shoes but it needs some getting used to. Asuka has called Reiko and Rika to help. Fishing boat arrival + maniacal laughter = WTF?! Reiko gets the wrong idea she is here to challenge her for a rematch before the autumn tournament. The practice match goes well with Asuka levelling up a lot and Reiko doing the same to avenge Shindou’s honour. After practice, Asuka bumps into Saki at an alley playing with a stray kitten. When she tries to talk about FC and do their best for the next tournament, Saki cuts her off that their FC is nothing like theirs. Arrogance, right? Meanwhile Misaki sees Shindou to seek his help to train her on how to enjoy while being in the state of fear. Psychological training? In another practice match, everyone is stunned when Masaya personally enters the fray to teach the girls all that he’s got from his past experience. After all these years, he still hasn’t lost touch. This even motivated Kagami to join in. Yeah, all the experienced masters are pitching in to help our youngsters level up.

Episode 11
The autumn tournament is here and you bet Irina and Saki are going to show the world their beautiful and superior play by winning 2 tournaments in a row. We’ll see about that. We skip first round matches because there isn’t anybody worthy to watch so in the second round, Mashiro takes on Rika in a closely contested match that has Mashiro narrowly beating Rika 4-3. Although it is sad she lost in the next round. Too bad Reiko couldn’t get her revenge and lost to Saki. By now Irina and Saki must be the most hated duo ever in the series because at the end of the day, they rub it in by telling how everyone is exhausted but not Saki who didn’t even have to work a sweat. Otherwise Saki will not be able to show the world a perfect victory. Even before the next match in which Saki is supposed to face Misaki, Irina cockily tells them off how they will be silenced once the match begins. The gang knows better than to give in to her provocations and use it as motivation to spur them on. It is better than Mashiro dressing up like a fan idol to cheer for Misaki… Asuka beats Mayu in the semi-finals 6-2. Misaki and Saki’s match begins and right from the start it is obvious Saki is going to do her birdcage move. Misaki isn’t cowed and tries various ways to get into a dogfight with her. She even tries flying upside down to protect her back despite flying this way is difficult. When Saki has a moment of hesitation, Misaki uses her cobra move to spring an attack and touch Saki’s back. A point earned. No more perfect victory. Irina is irked at this unsightly play. When Misaki challenges her that she has given everything she’s got, Saki could feel some passionate burning within her heart. She feels she wants to beat her. Thus Saki apologizes she can’t play along with Irina’s plans. Saki moves on her own and is quite a good dogfighter. She makes a comeback to defeat Misaki narrowly 3-2. Though Misaki is sad that she couldn’t best Saki, it isn’t as bitter as what Irina is feeling because it is the ugliest victory she has ever seen. So a victory is not a victory for her?

Episode 12
Before the finals begin, Irina warns Saki to fly with grace and silence her opponent. No buts about it. As expected, Saki isn’t being friendly with Asuka who hopes to have a good game with her. Asuka for once dominates when the match begins. She takes the lead until Irina tells Saki to turn off the balancer of her Grav-Shoes. In short, it is a good and bad thing but it brings out its utmost potential. Saki is able to catch up and tie the points with Asuka. Then there is some sort of aerial beat down on Asuka. It could have been endless had not regulation time ended. Saki’s powerful stunning display has silenced the crowd and this is perhaps what Irina wants. As the match ends in a tie, there will be an extra time after a 10 minutes break. Everyone is worried that Asuka has no more stamina after that beat down but surprisingly Asuka finds this match fun (I hope she isn’t a masochist) and wants to keep flying with her. She requests her balancer to be taken off too. Irina brags to Kagami about their perfect and beautiful symphony that silenced the crowd. Kagami replies that is just fear. Because it would be meaningless if the game doesn’t live up to its circus name of entertaining the crowd. As extra time begins, Asuka quickly crashes into the sea. But that is just a prelude so that she could power up and fly with Saki without balancers. Asuka’s power up stuns the crowd to new heights as she regains her points lead. When the girls face off again, Saki has this burning passion in her heart like the last time. For the first time, we see Saki smile! Yup, she’s going to have a blast with Asuka. Now Irina is the only one being a b*tch herself. Saki goes on the offensive to level the points again. They start chasing each other until they become… A giant ball of glowing light?! But it is so beautiful that even Irina succumbs to admit how beautiful it is. Extra time has ended and the match goes into sudden death. Whoever scores the next point first wins. When it seems Asuka’s Grav-Shoes gave way and Saki going to tag her back, with the power of her will (and main character BS), Asuka powers back up and turns fast enough (like as though time has stopped) to touch Saki’s back and win it. The first person to rush to hug the new champion is Misaki. To show that Irina still has a heart, she apologizes to Kagami of her wrong ways. She did it because she wanted Kagami’s approval. Well, damn. Now we can’t hate her entirely ;p. Kagami also admitted she did make some mistakes but now she knows she played an important role in the evolution of FC. End clips show nothing much except everyone going about in their daily lives. Saki has become friends with Asuka and co. Oh, Shion is having it tough with his college entrance exams… Ganbatte, ne!

Flying Dogfight
Time to stop flying in the clouds and put our feet back on the ground. Well, that was fun, right? But it also ended in an expected way as Asuka predictably won the tournament because she is the main character and it will justify and avenge all the other characters who lost to Saki. To put icing on the cake, Irina and Saki have learnt their lesson and drop their snobbish b*tch tag. All is well, ends well. Win-win situation for everybody. Nobody goes home broken hearted and everybody is as happy as they are together. What a perfect world. Till the next big game comes up. Winter tournament anybody?

The game of FC can be summed up as a big game of air checkpoint with air tag and air point guard. Probably I wasn’t paying attention because I believe that the finer points to playing FC aren’t explained quite clearly. I understood the game mainly because of my observations so I believe the game is played that way. For example, I kept wondering why somebody has to play the point guard after the first buoy is touched instead of just continue to race for the next buoy. Then I noticed it could be part of the rules that after the fastest player touches the first buoy, the slower player will then become the point guard and try to stop the other. And you can’t go to the next buoy until both players cross each other. I may be wrong but this is what I observed so far in every match. Plus, I was too lazy to do my own research since I’m not that crazy into the game after all ;p. I think such rules keep the game fresh and exciting because if everyone were to start racing, there would be no dogfights thus no fancy acrobatic flight manoeuvres to drum up the dramatic effects. Besides if racing to the next buoy is all it takes to get points, the fastest player would definitely leave the slower one eating his/her dust. Or air trails in this case.

Thus FC isn’t a game that captivated my heart even till the end of the series. Sure, it is a game that could only possibly exist in fantasy. I mean, ever tried playing real Quidditch in real life? Looks so lame, right? Hah. I’m not a Quidditch fan anyway… Anyhow, one reason being that I don’t fully understand the game rules and to me it seemed like a couple of players having an aerial dogfight as themselves and without planes. I am sure they did their best in producing the best angles and scopes of the flight action but unfortunately I wasn’t really charmed even when purely watching the spectacle. Although entertaining, it isn’t something that took my breath away.

Character development isn’t too deep with many of the ‘action’ taking place within the game especially in the later parts of the series. We have the main characters and their set of little problems but that is clearly overcome. Like Asuka being a klutz in real life and FC would become a rising talent in the game in no time. It is like she is able to grasp the concepts after playing or watching once. Why do retards usually have such great talent in such shows? Then there is Masaya as the ex-experienced player who left the game but came back to just to help out a new talent develop so that he too can move forward and not run away from his sorry past anymore. One would wonder who that small boy was in Asuka and Misaki’s past. He looks like Masaya but my guts tell me he is not. And since Masaya was also once beaten by a kid who could probably be that same boy, it all adds up to the mystery that no one really cares about in the end.

We get the most drama out of Misaki when she has some sort of pride problem as she is unable to accept that she wasn’t up to standard because if she lost to whom she believes is the best and that best lost to another, it really takes a beating to her pride and it lets her know where she stands in FC. I believe Misaki has a ‘split personality’ depending on the time of the day but you’ll probably forget about it since it isn’t something as clear as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Not forgetting Mashiro who continues to yearn for Misaki’s love. But I feel ever since she made friends with Rika, she isn’t that obsessed with Misaki. You know, to the point where Misaki is like her personal property and nobody else could touch her. Because when Misaki temporarily left the club, why didn’t Mashiro follow? I thought she goes wherever Misaki goes. Instead, Mashiro continues being in the club like the independent girl she is instead of bugging her lover (at least in her head).

As for the other side characters, they don’t stand out as much. Like Irina and Saki are there as the series ‘antagonist’ so that we could have somebody to despise and give the series a much needed drama and push for our heroines to do better. Imagine if everyone had the same sportsmanship in FC and played the game well without any incidents. That would be so boring, wouldn’t it? So we see the daring exploits of turning off their balancers and giving FC a fresh breath of excitement in which FC experts call it another revolution to the game. So the duo aren’t entirely that bad and played a vital role in the next step of FC. Like any other high school sports club, there is a need for a manager and that is what basically Madoka’s role is. Otherwise her character would have been quite redundant. At least Shion is there because you can tell from the start he is a joker character with a passion for FC. After he hands over the captaincy to his sister, he further becomes more comical because he still hangs around like as though he feels he is needed. Thus, giving Madoka a role in playing the tsukkomi to ensure this idiotic big brother of hers would just stay home and study for his college entrance exams. Oh, did I mention he is a character that is prone to crying? Especially tears of joy… Then you’ve got redundant characters like shy Minamo just to show us that there is somebody else who supports Asuka. It is not like she appears very often either. Minori? People with gift of the gab are natural for commentating roles. Like, do we even pay attention to what she says?

The rest of the side characters are just there to add up for the numbers. Like Mayu and Arika who look like they have potential to have their own storyline seeing Arika is a rival-cum-childhood friend to Mashiro but that is all you need to know about her and what better way to reflect that by limiting their screen time. Same case for Mayu because this onee-sama type seems to be fixated about good etiquettes and manners of how one conduct oneself, which isn’t a bad thing but that is all there is that you would know about her character. And Rika’s role is to be Mashiro’s friend so that Mashiro won’t look like a total b*tch pervert hoarding Misaki all the time. Reiko is just a prideful b*tch while Shindou has fallen from grace as the best. At least they take their loss in better stride than Misaki but Takafuji’s reputation as a powerhouse starts declining ever since. And besides the fact that these characters are to provide roles as opponents in FC for our Kunahama girls. I mean, don’t you feel that despite having numerous FC players from other schools, how come they tend to face off among each other? Yeah. Plot convenience. Better for characters that we know to challenge each other so that there would be more drama effects compared to one we are unfamiliar with and once it is done, they are never heard of again.

Looking at the art and drawing for the first time, it struck me how similar it was the character designs to another anime, Koi To Senkyo To Chocolate. Unsurprisingly as I found out, both series were made by the same game developer, Sprite. I guess it is one of those things whereby you make lots of games and you want your trademark visuals to be consistent in games that you make and therefore the feeling of seeing a particular character somewhere before. Or sometimes you just think the creators got lazy and just copied some character and tweaked a little bit here and there. But let’s not pick a bone with that because overall the visuals are good especially the scenic backgrounds of the island and yes, the sky. As for the FC outfits, it is like a tight body hugging suit fitted with… Sleeve flaps? I don’t know if that really works for aerodynamic purposes.

As for the visual effects during FC battles, the light trail effects seem cool at first but after a while it would seem pretty odd that those lights would ‘stick’ in the air for that scene instead of fading away (for most of the scenes anyway). It feels like those light trails are something solid. What I mean is that the light trails would be permanent in that fight scene until the next change of scene. I suppose this is good so you can see and chart the movements of where the FC players were. Then come the next scene, it is like ‘somebody quickly took a sky board duster (my term for blackboard duster for the sky) to rub them all off before the next scene plays’. Get what I’m saying?

Despite this series was adapted from an adult visual novel game of the same name, there is practically no fanservice at all. If not, a tiny amount so miniscule that you would probably forget as the episodes go by. Because the only most prominent fanservice I could remember is when Masaya accidentally passes by Asuka while she is changing. That only happened twice and in the first 2 episodes. After that, it never happened again or else we would have started to think that this would become the series’ running joke-cum-fanservice. As for the FC outfits, there is nothing sexy about them. If you deem so, probably you do not have enough exposure to what a real fanservice is :-). Or maybe I’ve watched too many fanservice elements and thus my expectations for pantsu shots and boobs shoots have tremendously rocketed sky high as the standard threshold. Yeah…

It is one of those animes where I once again mistake a seiyuu. This is the case for Asuka as I thought she was voiced by Nao Touyama. There were a few instances when I thought she sounded like her but at other points it wasn’t. So I thought it was the case of the seiyuu being flexible with her voice. I was wrong. Asuka is voiced by Misato Fukuen (Eve in Black Cat, Yami in To Love-Ru). Probably it was the way Asuka sounded when she was in lively retard mode that made me thought so. The rest of the other casts are Ryota Ohsaka as Masaya (Marco in Shingeki No Kyojin), Azumi Asakura as Misaki (Asia in High School DxD), Nozomi Yamamoto as Mashiro (Yukimura in Boku Wa Tomodachi Ga Sukunai), Naomi Wakabayashi as Madoka (Kud in Little Busters), Madoka Yonezawa as Rika (Ui in K-ON!), Risa Taneda as Reiko (Yukina in Strike The Blood), Kazuyuki Okitsu as Shindou (Nagare in K: Return Of Kings), Natsumi Takamori as Saki (Subaru in Houkago No Pleiades), Kaori Mizuhashi as Irina (Miyako in Hidamari Sketch series) and Takayuki Kondou as Shion (Ooishi in Prince Of Tennis). If you remember that gay guy and his Yaoi Stick from Koi To Senkyo To Chocolate, it is that same voice again here, Megumi Ogata as Kagami. Only, no Yaoi Stick this time.

The opening theme is Contrail ~Kiseki~ by Mami Kawada. Hearing this anime pop rock brings back memories to my early days in anime when I was watching shows like Onegai Teacher, Onegai Twins and Hayate No Gotoku. As part of the techno-cum-rock music group, I’ve Sound, the similarities and trademarks are still there to bring back the nostalgia. The ending theme is A-gain by Ray. I feel this slow piece is a little weird. I think it is the weird sound effect that makes it like an underwater song. A song that fits a series like Nagi No Asukara. I don’t know. That is how I feel when I first heard the piece. Sometimes it feels soothing and calm but sometimes it just feels weird. Ray also sings the special ending theme for the final episode, Kimi Toita Sora. This one at least sounds better although it is your typical generic anime pop.

Overall, this anime is still decent on many grounds like the visuals and the flight action. I can’t say if it would be any different had the series been extended for another dozen episodes because although there were 2 tournaments featured, it felt like they were the same thing. Many other ‘unimportant’ matches skipped, featured ones shortened and only the main anticipated matches against important characters were given prominence. Usually tournament arcs especially those under the sports genre would have reasonably numerous episodes but this one is all over within two or three episodes. And just like many sport genres, the lesson always learnt is to enjoy the game and play your very best unlike in reality that winning is everything and the only thing. In that case, the answer isn’t always found in the sky. It is always blowin’ in the wind, my friend :-).

Girls Und Panzer OVA

September 19, 2014

Oh yes!!! It is finally here! I remember I was really disappointed when they cut out one of the important matches in the TV series. I was really looking forward to it. And then it’s like they answered my prayers (or rather they might have planned this all along) because Girls Und Panzer OVA is the much awaited second round match of the Senshadou championship between Ooarai and the Italian Anzio! Hooray! Now I can be extremely satisfied! I’m not going to bore you (and myself) with whatever introductions because I’m so eager to hop in and watch the tank battle. Let’s go!

This Is The Real Anzio Battle!
Anzio’s Senshadou captain, Anchovy addresses her mates and is confident about defeating Ooarai. Hooray! Counting their chickens? Well, they barely scraped through the first round. As she is going to unveil her new tank, seems the clock strikes noon and all the girls don’t want to miss out some special lunch. Food is more important than tanks, right? Oh yeah. Italians… Back at Ooarai, they are discussing their strategy on Anzio when Yukari returns with yet another infiltration at Anzio. Seems they are having a food festival. Yup. Italians do love their food. Everybody is so merry that Yukari could even record Anchovy rallying the girls on her new tank. Miho goes to visit rekijo team’s house to get more details on the Italian tanks. One of them has a friend in Anzio and she would love to face off with her fair and square. Ooarai practice by having heroine team and volleyball team acting as Anzio. Loli team chasing volleyball team feels like a joke… Rekijo team tries to practice firing at heroine team at long range but they couldn’t hit them. A single shot from heroine team eliminated them. Need more practice? At the end of the day, they feel hungry. What are they having? Italian of course! Nekota tries to talk to Miho to join her club but seems she fails again. A new tank has been discovered and being uncovered by automotive team. Because some time is needed to make repairs, they won’t be joining in their next match. In exchange for fixing it up good, automotive team wants to ride this one.

The match day is here. Anchovy meets Miho before the match as greeting. I won’t say Anchovy is cocky but she is brimming with confidence. Also, Caesar meets her other friend, Carpaccio on the other side and is glad to see each other again. The match begins. As usual, Ooarai has only 5 tanks compared to Anzio’s 10. Loli team and volleyball team go ahead and scout and spot the enemy tanks. They are ordered not to engage them. However something doesn’t add up. How come there are 11 tanks not including the flag tank? Miho orders them to fire a test shot and those tanks are just cardboards! A decoy! Miho realizes Anzio’s goal is to surround and ambush them from the back. Their tactic now is to use their flag tank to lure the enemy out. Loli team thought they have spotted more fake tanks and fire. Oops. Real ones. Now run! Volleyball team are on the run too as several of Anzio’s tanks are hot on their tail. Anchovy is waiting nicely when she realizes her comrades had screwed up the number of fake tanks since Ooarai has figured out their plan. She makes a move but comes into Ooarai. Rekijo team and Carpaccio’s team engage in close combat. You think it is odd for them to miss at this range but manoeuvring a tank like that isn’t easy. The flag tanks chase each other.

Volleyball team despite firing and overturning many Anzio tanks, it is like they are on some God mode because they keep coming back. Those Anzio tanks may lack firepower and despite being overturned, they are light enough for them to flip it back up and continue as long as the white flag doesn’t pop up. Plus, they have great mobility. Miho advises them to take out its weakness in the engine radiator. Volleyball team aims and fire. They hit not 1 but 4 of them! Wohoo! Also, loli team stops their tank so they could aim better. They manage to get 1. Not bad! Suddenly Anzio’s tanks are halved! Anchovy presses the panic button and wants all tanks to protect her flag tank. By the time reinforcement has arrived, they got taken out (it’s like they came just to get shot) and eventually Anchovy’s tank. Ooarai wins! The close quarter combat between rekijo team and Carpaccio’s team ends in a draw. They took each other out. In the aftermath, Anchovy congratulates Miho for a great game and now they will be rooting for them to win the championship. Now it is time to party! Anzio rolls out a feast for everyone to enjoy. See, what did I tell you about Italians loving their food? It’s so extravagant! If only they put more passion into their Senshadou as much as their cooking. In the final scene, we see Anzio coming really early in the wee hours of the morning to book their spot for the finals between Ooarai and Kuromorimine. No way they can be late, eh? Yeah. Whoever said starting early could kill? So they party all night… Morning comes, everybody is sound asleep. Safe to say, they miss the entire match! They only wake up when it’s over. You call that oversleeping! It’s already evening for God’s sakes! Now you know why they’re missing?

Mama Mia! Tank You For Everything!
Despite this OVA lasting around 38 minutes, it felt like it was only its usual 24 minutes worth of screen time. That was how engrossed I was, though the beginning may be a bit slow since it wasn’t the action part. The tank battles did not disappoint as usual and it is still thrilling to watch our girls go into battle. This battle gives a little more prominence to the volleyball team and loli team since we see them owning a few Anzio tanks. Because in the TV series they usually are the ones who get owned and lack the firepower compared to the tanks of other schools. So it’s nice that heroine team and student council team didn’t really hog much of the limelight. Rekijo team is also rather okay and I suppose the friendship of one of their comrades was just to give us a little development although it won’t be that deep. Though, Momo’s poor aim is still the best running joke ever.

Although it is sad that with this OVA, it brings a closure to the series, I am not sure if there is going to be another season or spin-offs or OVAs for these girls. I may not be into tanks for real or online games, but if there is I will definitely be there to root for my favourite tank girls. This series has been so far very awesome and even the bad points turn into good ones (were there any?). So girls, once again, t(h)anks for the joyride and for everything that you have provided me for this series. It was unforgettable. It was superb. It was fantastic. It was awesome. It was… Well, everything! In that sense, they really did aim and strike my heart. Three cheers and let’s tank up to that!

Girls Und Panzer

March 9, 2014

Are girls hot and sexy when they are paired with an automobile? For instance, girls and bikes. They look hot, don’t they? Yeah. It’s not the bike that we’re really looking at, aren’t we? What about girls and fast sports cars? Also hot and sizzling too, no? But what about girls and tanks? Girls and tanks, you say? Sorry if my several opening sentences end in questions but don’t you find anything turned on when a girl rides a tank? No? Well, perhaps Girls Und Panzer would change your mind. Imagine cute high school girls packing such power riding such armoured vehicles. What’s not to love? But seriously. High school girls riding tanks? Odd. Yeah. In anime they can make something out of nothing. War has ended so why the need for girls to drive tanks and shoot at each other? That’s because it’s not a war. It’s for sports! As I found out, Panzer Fahren (tank battle) is a relatively new sport founded somewhere in 2009 and only played by a handful of European nations. You drive real tanks around playing mock battles depending on the form of game play. But how many nations have got tanks to ‘waste’? They cost a lot right even if it’s only for sports. I suppose if you want to drive interest in this new sport, the best way is to turn it into anime (like how they try to do it with karuta. I think). And better still, you use cute high school girls to do it. Shouldn’t they have better girly things to do at their age? Like go shopping, gossip about boyfriends? I suppose that’s what separate tank nerds and tank nots. Now do you find girls and tanks hot and sexy?

Episode 1
We are given an exciting first person view of the girls in a Panzer Fahren match as our heroines engage the enemy. Now we go back in time. Miho Nishizumi wakes up and makes her way her to Ooarai Girls High School. She looks like the loner type till classmates Hana Isuzu and Saori Takebe invite her to join them. They become good friends but suddenly the student council trio, Anzu Kadotani (president), Momo Kawashima (PR manager) and Yuzu Koyama (vice president) approach Miho. Seems they are trying to pressure her into taking the Senshadou (Panzer Fahren) curriculum elective. Although this school doesn’t have such elective before, they plan on reviving it and want her to join. Miho sinks into absolute shock because she attended this school as it doesn’t have Senshadou. Yeah. Her shock face is like as though she killed somebody. So her friends try to give her some support as they learn Miho’s history. She comes from a family with a long reputable history in Senshadou. Miho doesn’t have nice memories of it. Suddenly the student council announces all students to gather in the hall. Despite being a reminder to choose their electives, it is a blatant propaganda and introduction to Senshadou. So, studying Senshadou makes you more womanly? Attracts more guys? WTF. They even mention the tremendous rewards of food coupons and tripling credits of all subjects to the one with the highest grades in Senshadou. Very tempting, right? Eventually Miho just can’t do it and selects flower arrangement. Her friends initially picked Senshadou but cancel it just to follow Miho. Think everything will be fine? That’s because Miho is called to the student council’s room to explain herself of her non-selection of Senshadou. So she doesn’t have the freedom to choose? They even threaten her of expulsion! Her friends stand up and fight for her. Miho sees how hard they are trying to support her so she grits her teeth and decides to take up Senshadou. There. Happy? And so all those who picked this elective gather at the field. Including the student council members, there are 21 students for Senshadou. I don’t know. The rest look like oddballs. What the heck is the volleyball team doing here? Notice half a dozen of lolis? And there’s this rekijo (female historian buffs) group… Never in your wildest dream would you think such groups would show interest in tanks. But then again, it could have been much worse… They are shown a rundown tank in the garage. Rusting away… But the girls are in awe…

Episode 2
As they are split into 5 teams, the rest are ordered to find 4 missing tanks scattered throughout this gigantic city ship. Miho and friends begin their search. Where to begin? Along the way, they meet tank enthusiast (she knows everything about them, trust me), Yukari Akiyama who is eager to join them. Soon all the teams find the tanks (sitting in odd places? Cave? Dump site? Underwater?) and they keep what they find. Now they got to clean and restore it. Poor Yuzu is doing all the hard work while Anzu and Momo just bum their ass off… At the end of the day, Miho and co head to a tank specialized shop. They see on the news, Miho’s sister, Maho who has been selected to represent the nation for Panzer Fahren. Miho looks gloomy… Then everyone gathers at Miho’s apartment for dinner. Next day as Miho goes to school, she sees a girl, Mako Reizei having trouble trying to make her way to school. Sleepy, sleepy, sleepy… Somehow they make it but the public morals committee member, Midoriko Sono AKA Sodoko is not amused. This is the 245th straight time Mako is late! Is this a world record? The Senshadou girls eagerly await their new instructor, Ami Chouno from the special training association. I’m sure everyone is awed at her grand debut with her tank diving down from the plane. Too bad the principal’s car got smashed… Ami recognizes Miho since her sister is famous but Miho isn’t really thrilled. Ami has the teams do a full mock battle and sets out their starting points. The teams also assign its members to positions. I wonder why the inequality of number of members in a team. Though there is no restriction, loli team has got 6 people, the most number while student council team has the least with 3. The rest have 4 each. As there are 5 positions, Saori becomes the commander, Hana the driver, Yukari the gunner and Miho taking on both the loader and radio operator roles. Once all teams are in position, the mock battle rule is simple. Immobilize all other teams and the last one standing wins. Heroine team (my term for Miho’s group) is suddenly attacked by volleyball team (missed by an inch). Rekijo team sees this opportunity to cooperate with volleyball team to take out heroine team. As they run, they see Mako sleeping right in their path!

Episode 3
Mako suddenly gets up and jumps onto their tank! Saori knows her because they are childhood friends. They are now at a bridge. As they try to cross it, their rivals fire on them and almost cause the tank to lose balance. The impact knocks out Hana. Everyone is surprised that Mako can easily drive the tank after just reading the manual. With Miho’s strategy, Yukari fires a shot and it directly hits rekijo team to take them out of the game. Volleyball team panics and then goes out after heroine team fires a direct shot at them. Coming from the other side of the bridge is student council team. Momo turns into a bloodthirsty trigger happy crazy b*tch! Fire! Fire! Fire! Too bad heroine team was faster and puts them out of commission. Worse, how the heck could Momo miss?! Loli team gets scared and wants to retreat but their tank got stuck in the mud and their engine blew! I guess heroine team wins! Before Ami returns, she congratulates the teams for a fine job and to contact her if there is anything. While heroine team soaks in a well deserved hot bath, they think of repositioning themselves. As reluctant Miho may be, she is made the commander because of her awesome strategy. Hana wants to be the gunner since she loves the ‘warm feeling’ when firing a cannon! Saori will be the radio operator since she is good in texting. That’s almost the same, right? Hana will be the loader and this means Mako the driver, no? However Mako is not interested in joining till she is reminded of her lack in credits. Is this blackmail? The girls go shopping to spice up their tanks. Comfy cushions, slippers, interior decorations… Hey, if they’re going to spend most of their time in the tank, might as well make it as comfortable as possible. They also wanted to go with a new paint of coat but ditched the idea. However the other teams did theirs. Urm… Pink tank? Gold tank? Well, screw camouflage. At least they can tell each other apart. The Senshadou girls continue to practice operating their tanks and how to read instruments.

As announced, there will be a friendly battle this weekend with Saint Gloriana Girls’ Academy. They were runners up in the national tournament before. Because meeting time is at 6am, Mako wants to quit! She can’t wake up that early! Blackmail… Credit points… Grandma and Winston Churchill… I didn’t get that one but it made Mako reluctantly revise her decision. All the team leaders are in the briefing as Momo strategizes the enemy’s tanks. Miho’s guts tell her it will backfire and this pisses off Momo as she tells her off to take command then. Maybe she will, as Anzu suggests. And so she did. Win, and she will be rewarded well. Lose, she’ll do some embarrassing anglerfish dance in some public festival. I don’t know how preposterous that dance is but her teammates aren’t thrilled and acting like it’s the end of the world. So they just need to win to avoid that, right? Come Sunday, Saori tries to wake up Mako but it’s impossible. All the alarm clocks couldn’t do the job so what makes Saori think she can haul her ass out from her futon? Till Miho drives her tank through the streets and fires a blank shot! Is this legal? Everyone thought some earthquake just happened. The ships dock on land so they can have the friendly. It’s like a festival with stalls setup and other attractions. Like attending a Formula One race, huh? Ooarai meet their St Gloriana counterparts, led by Darjeeling. The official flags off the match to begin.

Episode 4
Remember that scene at the beginning of the first episode? It’s here now. Continuing from there, heroine team becomes the decoy to lure St Gloriana into an ambush pit where the others are waiting. Stupid Momo is so hard up on firing that she almost shot heroine team when they arrive. St Gloriana knows this is a trap but remains cool and plays along. Despite Ooarai firing away, I don’t how they could even miss so St Gloriana surrounds them and starts firing! Loli team panics and abandons ship! Student council team’s tank track becomes loose so they are immobilized (but not out). Miho takes the other teams to escape through the city. This is where they’ll put their knowledge of the roads into good use. Rekijo team hides in the tight alley and when a St Gloriana tank passes, they fire on them, instantly taking them out. Another St Gloriana tank falls into a trap because volleyball team is actually hiding behind them. Fire away! However… I think their pea shooter wasn’t powerful enough so they got fired back. Ouch. I guess they’re out. Rekijo team loves their flags, right? So it’s sticking out like a sore thumb from their tanks that it makes them so visible. And that’s why they got taken out by the enemy right across the fence. Heroine team is left and there is a daunting task of taking out 4 enemy tanks. St Gloriana chases them and smashes into a few shops. But the owners are glad because they can use compensation money to renovate! Crash into my shop too! Heroine team is cornered at a dead end when suddenly student council team barges into the scene. Momo fires at point blank range and… MISSES!!! HOW THE HELL COULD SHE MISS AT SUCH CLOSE RANGE!!! Thanks to her blunder, student council team got hit point blank. Out. But this gives heroine team time to escape. While doing so, they manage to fire and take out one. Using the corners to their advantage, heroine team swiftly attacks an enemy tank at the turn and the quickly reverses to take out another. Now they have to face the final boss but Darjeeling’s tank’s armour is thicker. Miho’s tactic is to play chicken (or so it seems to me). When both tanks are side by side, they fire at the same time. However heroine team’s thinner armour means they lost. At the end of the day, Darjeeling praises Miho and notes she is different from Maho. Since they lost, it’s the anglerfish dance, right? Since it is a collective lost, everybody has to do it! Oh God…

As heroine team walks through town, Saori thought a handsome guy spotted her. To her embarrassment, Shinzaburou is Hana’s family’s servant and he is happy to see his milady fine. Hana’s mom is here too. However after Yukari’s slip of her tongue reveals they are in Senshadou, mommy smells Hana’s hand and to her horror realizes she is really taking up such course instead of following the family tradition of flower arrangement. So in shock that she collapses! Back at their mansion, the friends eavesdrop Hana’s conversation with her mom. Hana felt something was missing when she did flower arrangement and wants to work with stronger flowers. Mother couldn’t believe her gentle nature is gone and views tanks as crude and ugly. Hana is determined to follow this path so mother tells her never to show her face here again. Goodbye. Hana isn’t sad as she hopes to present her with an appropriate flower one day. The rest of the girls are cool but Shinzaburou… He turned into a real cry-baby. When they get back on ship, loli team sincerely apologizes to them for abandoning their tank. They promise to their best next time and Anzu will leave the strategies to Miho. St Gloriana sends them a tea set, a sign that they are worthy opponents. And so it’s time for the Nationals. 16 high school teams will fight it out and Miho picks up Saunders University High School. Well, let’s say they are one of the favourites to win the title. Tough opponent right from the start, eh?

Episode 5
Heroine team is eating out at a panzer themed café. Walking in is Maho and her second in command, Erika Itsumi. Miho becomes gloomy when Maho comments she is still doing Senshadou. Erika didn’t waste time to insult and badmouth Ooarai but Mako has equal sarcasm to match it and shut her up. I guess the only way is to take it out on the battlefield. If Ooarai get to advance, that is. Later, Miho laments if she had information of Saunders’ line-up, she could at least come up with some strategy. And so Yukari didn’t show up in school the next day so her friends visit her family barber shop. Her father is extremely annoying in accepting them to a point it’s creepy. Grateful for the first friends to visit Yukari, I take? Yukari sneaks in back via window. Seems she has snuck into Saunders’ ship to collect valuable information with her hidden camera. She disguised and infiltrated their school while they were having a tactical meeting. Because there were too many students, I guess nobody could recognize her so much so she could ask questions and got some answers. Till one of them didn’t recognize her as a student. Once her cover was blown, she escapes. Yukari hopes Miho could use the details to come up with some tactics. Battle day arrives. Ooarai meet their Saunders counterparts. Their leader, Kei recognizes Yukari as the imposter but welcomes her. They invite Ooarai to their mobile stall trucks that offer lots of facilities and food stuffs. Rich people… I’m not sure about the Panzer Fahren rules but Saunders is employing some old rules that allow them up to the maximum of 10 tanks! Though, they are all the same Sherman type with limited ammo. Each team will assign a flag tank. Taking out that flag panzer means victory for the team. It’s just like capture the flag math. Miho puts forth her strategy. However it hits a snag when loli team are surrounded by the enemy in the forest. Heroine team and student council team rendezvous with them to escape but Saunders tanks are hot on their trail. Ooarai is completely surrounded but Miho suggests a bold move to just continue pressing forward. The gamble pays off as they barely scrape through. As they rest, Miho senses something amiss. It’s like the enemy knew their moves. Then she realizes it. The enemy may have intercepted their radio communications by planting a device in the weather balloon. Though the rules say nothing on this, I guess this shows that money is power. Saunders continues to eavesdrop Ooarai’s conversation. It leads them to believe where their flag tank is. A strategy is made to take it out. A couple of Sherman tanks arrive at the supposed place but rekijo team fires and takes out one of them! The other manages to escape. Saunders and the audience are left surprised that Ooarai took out a Saunders tank. How did they do it? Well, the girls communicated via own handphone and the one via radio was just baiting. Smart.

Episode 5.5
Wait a minute?! A recap episode? After 5 episodes? Anyway, for those with bad memory, mainly narrated by Miho and Yukari, it tells how Miho tried to get away from Senshadou by enrolling into Ooarai but was lured back into it. She also introduces her friends and the other Senshadou mates. I suppose it is interesting to see some of their bio-data but seriously, are we interested to see what kind of flower or tank they like? And why didn’t they include the all-important 3 sizes?! Oops… Of course as we progress through the different matches heroine team played so far, we are given trivial information of the tanks that have appeared and their main features. So I’ve wasted almost half an hour of my time on this recap with recycled scenes. At least put some new scenes lah! Now can we get back to action?

Episode 6
Arisa, the one responsible for eavesdropping on Ooarai isn’t going to lose so she continues searching the waves to eavesdrop further. Then she hits it. She hears their next plan to gather on the hill and informs Kei and the rest to head there. But nobody’s there? Sure she got her info right? Suddenly volleyball team pops up before Arisa’s tank. Oh no! Although Arisa’s team is the flag tank, volleyball team’s firepower is not good enough to take it out so they run. They throw smokescreen to blind their vision as they try to rendezvous back to the rest. When the smoke clears up, Arisa realizes they have walked into their trap because the other Ooarai tanks are firing at them! I know Momo will always miss but the rest? Man, Arisa is lucky. Run! We see Arisa’s true colours. She turns into a panicky slave driver, forcing her teammates to do this and that just to get their ass out of this trap. She’s even ranting about her boyfriend problems! Not enough space to yell inside? Go outside and scream all you want! Ooarai is hot on Arisa’s tail as she seeks backup. Kei learns about her eavesdropping and is not too pleased she isn’t playing fair. To even the odds, Kei wants another 3 tanks to follow them so it will be 5 on 5. When the cavalry arrives, you can see the relief on Arisa’s face. So it’s like one big chase or game of tag. Kei’s Saunders chasing Ooarai chasing Arisa. Unfortunately, volleyball team got taken out followed by loli team. Ooarai’s morale is all-time low especially Momo. In addition to being a bad shot, she’s such a negative person. Well, maybe it’s because student council team is the flag tank sandwiched between heroine team and rekijo team as they try to outrun their pursuers and also nail the enemy’s flag.

As they approach a hilltop, Miho devises a strategy to shoot from the top. They have a better chance but it is risky. Kei’s team foresees this and she leaves it to Naomi to take out heroine team. Thanks to Miho’s instinct, she has Mako slam on the brakes in time before being hit by Naomi’s shell. Because their reloading takes time, this crucial time will determine they nail it or lose it. Hana focuses her aim and fires a single shot. Arisa’s team takes a direct hit seconds before Naomi takes out heroine team. Ooarai wins! The Ooarai girls are jumping with joy especially with their upset victory over the favourites. Kei congratulates Miho for putting up a good game as it was fun. She also apologizes for the eavesdropping on her comrade’s part. She believes in practising fair play because if you’re not a good person, your tank will cry. I guess everybody is happy in the end. Except for Arisa. She’s going to get an earful. Mako suddenly gets a call that her grandma is hospitalized after falling down. But they have to get back to the ship. Desperate Mako is going to swim when Maho offers to take her there in her helicopter. Why the long face everybody? If not happy then don’t do so lah. But I guess it is no time to argue about whatever petty things. Saori accompanies Mako onto the helicopter. Personal problems aside, the rest have got the next matches Senshadou to worry about. Favourites Pravda High School and Kuromorimine Girls’ College (Maho’s team) secure crushing victories over their opponents. Ooarai’s next opponent will be Anzio High School.

Episode 7
When Miho and co visit the hospital, they hear grandma screaming her lungs off reprimanding Mako! Well, it’s a good sign that she’s doing well but I think at this rate her blood pressure will shoot through the roof. Maybe she doesn’t like it here too. When they leave, grandma politely tells Miho that Mako lacks courtesy and to take care of her. Back on board the ship, Miho thinks deep that everyone has their own problems. Miho explains Mako and her grandma used to fight a lot and she regrets never having the chance to properly apologize. This has Miho remember her own family problem. Mommy wants her to be in Senshadou because of their family name. In school, due to their first round victory, the student council must have put up banners about their advancement. Maybe they’ll get noticed this way. Miho and her friends eat together with their tank. Miho has always thought winning was the only important thing. But now she realizes that with her friends, Senshadou has a pretty fun and exciting side to it. Because of her mentality that winning was everything, it was the reason Miho ran away from Panzer. She remembers a match she lost. It was raining heavily and her team trekking precariously on the cliffs. When a teammate was shot, the tank slid down the cliffs and into the river. Miho abandoned her tank just to go save them. They lost because Miho’s tank was the flag and got shot soon after. The Senshadou girls continue to practice and improve their skills (I think some really need more improvement – like Momo’s aim). But the important thing is that they all have the motivation and spirit.

Seems Miho is the person to go to when they have problems and need her advice. Including love problems! Boyfriends running away because of tanks? Who would want a girl who has the ability to point the cannon in their face? Thankfully Miho’s friends help lighten her load and offer to give the other teams advice. Hana helps the student council with the paper work, Mako teaches the volleyball team how to drive better (just read the manual!), Yukari tells all she knows about tanks to rekijo team while Saori becomes the love advice master to loli team (despite she herself have never dated any guy). Hana goes through the documents and based on them, there are extra tanks lying around. They split into team to search for them but it seems they are scattered in a few parts. Saori and loli team didn’t come back in time and they receive message that they are lost. Anzu hands Miho the map of the ship to Miho so she can lead a search party. Mako is afraid of ghosts more than waking up early… Eventually lady luck has them find the lost girls. But they notice another tank of where they are holing up. As everybody soaks in the hot bath, Momo announces their new tanks and gadgets won’t be ready in time for the next match. She has Miho do the closing lines by rallying up everybody’s spirits. Looks like they’re up to it. And so we see Ooarai defeating the Italian-like Anzio team. WTF??!!! WHAT THE HELL!!! I feel cheated and robbed! I waited an entire episode for some Senshadou match and they just show me 2 seconds clip of the end result! WTF?! I want my Ooarai-Anzio match!!!

Episode 8
With the new tank fixed up, it seems we have a new group of girls joining Senshadou to make a sixth team. It is Sodoko and her public morals girls. Are they triplets or something? And Mako is made to be her driving teacher… Momo seems to be quite fixated in winning the semi-finals against Pravda who was last year’s champion when the other girls think they could slack or give up. Later Anzu has Miho come to their place as there is something they want to tell her. However they went around the bush, changing the subject and showed the great times the student council trio had together. In the end they couldn’t tell her because they don’t want to burden her and to let her look forward to the match instead of shrinking in fear. The match with Pravda is about to begin and takes place on the icy cold land. Ooarai is approached by Pravda’s little bratty commander, Katyusha. She is arrogant and even sits on top of her vice commander’s shoulder, Nonna just so that she could feel taller and higher than them. I guess at such height, is it no wonder why everybody looks down on her? Ooarai don’t like her one. Katyusha spots Miho and recognizes her. She thanks her for last year because without her help, they would never have become champions. Before the match starts, Miho wants to take a more defensive approach to fight Pravda but her team is so motivated to go all out on the offensive. Miho agrees to quickly take out the enemy since prolonged battle in snow would only work in their favour as the Russian-like Pravda works best in snowy terrain. You think Ooarai now has an extra tank at their disposal? Why, Pravda has 15 tanks! Is there a limit to how many tanks you can field? Number wise, isn’t this unfair? Oh, here comes the Pravda team. They’re so ‘cool’ that they’ve got their own theme song! But it’s mainly on Katyusha.

Ooarai pushes forward and realizes the enemy has spotted them when they fire. They fire back and easily take out a couple of them. Miho is cautious since this is too easy. When one of the tanks retreats, everyone chases after it. They are in so high spirits thinking favour is on their side that they disregard Miho’s order to hold their ground. Eventually they are drawn into a small village as the Ooarai tanks try to shoot the flag tank which is playing hide and seek among the buildings. While they are so engrossed in taking down their target, they did not realize the other Pravda tanks are slowly popping out from their hiding and surrounding them. Miho realizes they have fallen into their trap and quickly orders her team to retreat and take refuge in a nearby big building. I’m not sure if the cold winter or is it Pravda’s bad shot (perhaps intentionally too) that none of Ooarai tanks gets shot. After safely retreating into the building, Pravda sends a couple of reps to give Ooarai a message from Katyusha. She wants them to surrender by kneeling before her and will wait for 3 hours the most. Some want to fight to the end while others think they have done well to reach here and had fun. But Momo becomes agitated they can’t lose now. Miho tries to calm her down that Senshadou is just a game and not war. There is more to winning and for Miho she has made great friends and loved this school and the club. Well, can you say that once the school shuts down after they lose? Eh… Say what? That’s right. If they don’t win this tournament, Ooarai will close down.

Episode 9
When the student council went to see some minister, they were told the school will be shut down due to declining enrolment and no notable activities. He noted Senshadou was once popular in this school so Anzu thought of reviving it and that they won’t close down a school if they become champions. That’s why Anzu thought they wanted to keep hoping instead of crying in their last year. The girls feel sad over the fate of their school but Miho’s encouragement has them lift their spirits so they are going to use the 3 hours to fix whatever is broken. They’re going to fight till the end. She also sends some scouts to verify the location of the enemy tanks so she can devise a strategy. But morale is running low again when they are running out of food and warmth. They can see their Russian counterparts having a nice borsch meal and doing a Cossack dance around the fire! Morale drops to all time low thinking about their school’s closure. Miho starts doing the anglerfish dance to motivate them. Isn’t this embarrassing dance just counterproductive? In order not to let her bear the shame, everyone starts doing it too! They are spotted by a Pravda scout who is here to tell them time is up. So what’s it going to be? No surrender. I guess Katyusha waited for nothing. Ooarai tanks burst out of the building in a straight line. They surprise Katyusha by heading towards her direction, a heavily guarded area. I guess you can thank the worsening weather for the bad vision and bad shots. Anzu takes over Momo for the gunner position and decides to do some solo move. Due to the thick armour of the Pravda tanks, the only chance they have is to fire at point blank. So this means Yuzu has to drive up real close to them. After several cool manoeuvres and shots fired, student council team only managed to take out 2 Pravda tanks before being blown away.

The crowd is rooting for Ooarai the underdog as they continue to make their getaway with Pravda hot on their heels. Katyusha is so infatuated in chasing down their flag tank (volleyball team’s tank) that she doesn’t care or account a couple of Ooarai’s tanks just went ‘missing’ over the hill. Miho sends Yukari out so she can scout out enemy positions and their flag tank from a high tower. Heroine team and rekijo team are going after Pravda’s flag tank and will take them out while visibility is low so they leave it to the others to protect volleyball team. Unfortunately loli team and public morals team got taken out so volleyball team is left to fend themselves all alone in this scary ride. It’s amazing they manage to not get hit. Thank the bad weather. Pravda’s flag tank has been spotted so they start mobilizing. Their big cannon tank comes between them. Luckily their first shot misses and since it takes time to reload, they fire back and take it out. Yukari guides her teammates to corner Pravda’s flag tank. One of their tanks was hiding underneath the snow and takes it out but at the same time, volleyball team has been taken out too. So who was hit first?

Episode 10
Because the white flag on Pravda’s tank went up first, Ooarai wins! But of course. To show Katyusha isn’t a sore loser, she heads over to Miho and congratulates and shakes her hand. With Ooarai in the finals, their opponents will be Kuromorimine. Who else? The finals will allow up to 20 tanks! Does Ooarai have that many tanks? So the girls go on a ‘recruiting’ spree asking favours from the people to see if there are any abandoned tanks that they can salvage. Well they found one but despite its awesome firepower, it is horribly fragile. Gets stuck in mud easily, overheats easily and it’s on fire! Oh well, just make do with what they have. Because Miho asks the automotive club (who repairs and maintains their tanks) if they want to drive tanks, they accept the offer. Miho’s classmate, Nekota expresses her interest to join the club. But where to find another tank? Oh, there’s one sitting in the car park. Convenient? Nekota and her bunch of girls are online tank game nerds so they have some ‘experience’. Miho and friends take the day off and visit Hana who is taking part in a local flower exhibition. You can easily guess which flowers are hers. Yeah. See the tank shaped vases? They meet her mother there and it seems she has accepted her daughter embracing Senshadou because it made her a different person. On the day before the finals, Anzu gives her speech to her girls for moral support. She also has Miho give hers. She reveals she was once from Kuromorimine before transferring here but now considers Ooarai her home. That night, everyone do their stuffs and I thought it was pretty funny and superstitious to see them eating some kind of meal with katsudou in it. Saori shows her friends she has obtained second class licence as an amateur radio operator. Well, Mako had to pour cold water on it that she’s still an amateur. Saori’s next goal is to obtain a fiancée after the finals! Is she joking? She thinks Miho should get a boyfriend too. Well, aside that, Miho says she loves them all. Weird, right? Coming out from the mouth of a girl. Well, at least they aren’t yuri. Except maybe for Yukari.

On the day of the finals, Miho is visited by all the other teams she has defeated and also St Gloriana (who got defeated by Kuromorimine). Except maybe for Anzio because we never get to see them up close and personal. Still sore over that no-show… Anyway they are here to cheer on them. Before the match starts, the leader and vice of both teams meet to greet. Erika is still a b*tch and will put Miho and her team in place. We’ll see about that. But one of the Kuromorimine girls comes up to Miho to thank her. She was the one in the tank that fell into the river that Miho went to rescue (it caused them their title to Pravda). She feels guilty of letting her down and wanted to talk to her but she had left the school. But she is glad she has not abandoned Senshadou. Miho motivates her girls one more time and knows Kuromorimine would want to wipe them out fast with their number and firepower. So as the match begins, Ooarai girls can still chat like normal till they almost got hit by cannon fire! Seems Kuromorimine tanks have taken a shortcut through the forest and are firing all they’ve got. Plus, the forest hides their presence and Ooarai girls are in the open and sitting ducks. Erika is going to put Ooarai’s flag tank out of commission and gets ready to give the order to fire. Meanwhile online tank nerds team are having problem driving their tank. They didn’t know reality was harder than how the game operates. Duh… Because of that, they set the tank in reverse and took a shot from Erika’s fire and went out of the game. Their first appearance and this… But thankfully in a way they protected the flag tank, right?

Episode 10.5
WTF???!!! Another recap episode???!!! Why are they doing this me and also in the middle of an important match?! Just like the previous recap, we have Miho and Yukari narrating-cum-commenting on the-story-so-far. This time we have lots more trivia notes on the tanks despite the scenes re recycled. Also, new Ooarai teammates as well as the opponents they faced (the main characters only of course) are introduced (with the usual ‘uninteresting’ stats). Explained briefly as well are the match format (total annihilation which is equivalent to deathmatch in FPS and capture the flag) and the number of tanks limit introduced for the capture the flag format in the Nationals to allow smaller schools to participate. Also, some Butler System that allows Senshadou to be played safely and take into account how tanks go out based on the impact of the hit taken. Superb complicated stuffs. Otherwise… I think I just wasted another half hour. Back to the Ooarai-Kuromorimine match, please!

Episode 11
Ooarai uses smoke screen to shield their escape but Maho knows it’s a trap to waste their ammunition and orders her team not to fire. Ooarai escapes up the hill but Maho knows it will slow them down as they have a heavy tank. But to her surprise, the other tanks are dragging it up so Ooarai is making some headway to the top and continues to spill smoke screen all over the hilltop. Student council team stays behind and does some ambush, taking out 2 of Kuromorimine’s tanks. Then they run. Ooarai has taken a defensive position at the hilltop. When Maho gives the order to encircle them, Ooarai fires. No hits, seriously. Student council team is them given the green light to cause havoc. They drive up alongside Kuromorimine’s defence line! The opponents are taken by surprise as they try to get this little pest. Ooarai fires back but only manages to hit one. Then they all rush down with their last tank spewing smoke screen. Though Kuromorimine gives chase, their tanks are heavier and some of them have unreliable tracks and become immobilized. It will take time for them to get moving. Ooarai tanks are crossing the river but loli team’s engine dies. Miho is in a dilemma to push forward or to save them. Because if she chooses the latter, the enemy will come and they’ll be doomed. However her friends tell her to go save them and will look after the tank. Without hesitation, Miho ties a rope to herself and jumps to the loli team’s tank. I thought it looked unreal when she jumped. Did she enter some cheat code to ‘fly’? Everyone is amazed with Miho’s bravery as she chose friendship over advancing her tanks. That’s why they followed her. That’s why they want to win this to prove that her way is not wrong. Loli team’s tank is tied and pulled out of the river. Luckily their engine starts working again. Just in time to escape the incoming Kuromorimine tanks.

Ooarai tanks cross the tiny stone bridge and the automotive team use their skills to break it. This causes Kuromorimine to take a longer tour that will buy Ooarai some time. They are going to bring urban warfare to the game. Upon arriving in town, they spot a sole enemy tank and go after it thinking it would be a piece of cake. However it leads them into a trap because Kuromorimine has got one big mother tank! Maus is the heaviest tank in the world! Man, such a big mouse… How on Earth are you going to beat that! A single missed shot is enough to send you jumping! That’s what the student council team experienced. Public morals team fights back with their pea shooter, thinking this big mother is a big bully. They got a direct hit and turned turtle!!! OMG! Their tank is close to being destroyed! Even rekijo team too! I guess avenging your comrades isn’t such a good idea. Retreat while you still can! Oh, Kuromorimine are coming…

Episode 12
Now they’re employing a hit and run tactic but their shots are not enough to penetrate its thick armour. The mini enemy tank thinks they are safe hiding behind Maus but a stray shot hits them. Out they go. That’s what they get for being cocky. They need to end this or else urban warfare will get messier. Saori’s pessimism that they have a mountain to climb gives Miho an idea. She has student council team play chicken with it. Actually, they ram into Maus and jack it up! Now it is immobilized. Then, volleyball team rides up on it to block its turret from turning. With that, heroine team fires at the rear slit, which is the most vulnerable spot to put it out of commission! David(s) defeated Goliath! Unfortunately as a result, student council team’s tank goes bust since its metal cave in due to taking on such heavy weight. When the remaining Kuromorimine tanks arrive, the urban warfare begins. Ooarai tanks lead them in through the tight alleyways and small roads just to separate them into groups. Loli team is tasked to take out the heavier artillery tanks. This time they show they aren’t just cowards. Although their tank lacks firepower, it is swift. This means in the narrow lanes, they are able to circle behind their enemy (they can’t turn since their turret is too long) and fire at the place where shells are discarded for maximum impact. They also take on another heavy firepower tank but this time their plan backfired when they end up in open space. They retreat back in the small alley but the enemy is dead on their heels. To prevent them from firing, they stick as close to the enemy because their turret is long. They make a big risky gamble as they reach the end of the lane, they try to turn quick but get shot and went out of the game. However there is a big drain at the end so the enemy tank falls into it and has its turret broken. Also out. With their heavy guns out of the game, Maho orders her comrades to focus on the flag tank (which is heroine team). That won’t be easy since automobile team is fooling around and leading them astray till they can go no further. Volleyball team blocks the entrance to a town plaza to prevent other enemy tanks from interfering with the showdown between the flag tanks.

It’s a pretty exciting action as we see both tanks chase and fire at each other inside the enclosed town plaza. Lots of near misses and close shaves. However heroine team needs to win quickly because volleyball team has been fired to death out of the game and the Kuromorimine tanks are trying to force their way through. Hope this buys them enough time. Heroine team is the only Ooarai tank left. Miho decides to use that failed strategy they used against St Gloriana. This means Mako needs to make a circle at full speed, Yukari needs to reload faster and Hana must have accurate precision when she fires while moving. Can they do it? Of course they will! The all-or-nothing move begins. Both tanks fire at each other. Mako drifts the tank to circle it close up to the enemy. This drifting is taking its toll on the tank’s body. When both tanks are close enough, they fire simultaneously. Who emerges victorious from that smoke? OOARAI!!! Can you believe it?! Ooarai is the champion! Their teammates happily rush to congratulate them. Momo is the most emotional one. Anzu thanks and hugs Miho. Now their school will not shut down because… We are the champions, my friends… As gesture of goodwill, Sodoko erases all records of Mako being late or absent. She is so happy that she sounds creepy giving out this much emotion. Need a hug, Sodoko? To show good sportsmanship and that Maho is not a snobbish b*tch, she congratulates her sister, smiles and shakes her hands. She notes her fighting style suits her very much and very unlike the Nishizumi way. Ooarai are crowned the champions and everybody, friend and foe cheer to their victory. Even Miho’s mom too. Our Ooarai girls return to a hero’s welcome. Don’t you just love it when the underdogs win? Oh, Momo is still crying…

OVAs

These are actually specials that last 10-15 minutes when you buy the DVDs.

OVA 1
Because Anzu suggests for a Senshadou match on a tropical island, this prompts the girls to go buy swimsuits because Miho doesn’t have one. So we see the girls trying out all sorts of swimsuit fashion. From bikinis to contemporary ones, sexy and frilly ones, old fashioned and the bizarre too. Yeah, that includes scuba diving and NAVY seals. And what would be swimsuit for them without the tank designs too? Girls, are you even serious? Well, Yukari, Hana and Saori are looking like they’re having absolute fun. Even the other teams trying out their own theme. Bizarre? Scary? But they’re sure having fun. Are those even qualified as swimsuits? At the end of the day, Miho remembers she forgot to buy one. Don’t worry. Yukari has bought one just in case. Yeah. She knows her exact size measurements! Oh sh*t… And so the much awaited beach fanservice is here for all of us who wait. Wohoo! Sexy tank girls in cute swimsuits. Nothing offensive, mind you. And when the girls are about to jump into the sea, it starts raining heavily. Bummer…

OVA 2
Our girls are now going camping. Yeah. They have the place all exclusive for themselves and need not worry about perverts. We see the enthusiastic loli team getting to enthusiastic that they jump into the river without warming up and got cram. Student council team saves them. When it’s time to put up the tent, Mako feels everything is so troublesome and just sleeps on it! Yukari explains how to set up WWII tents but I guess the rest are more amazed at the modern and easy-to-setup tent. Heartbreaking, isn’t it? Of course it would be a waste not to experience setting up a tent the old way so the girls learn to put them up. After having fun in the river, it’s time for BBQ. Yukari has brought her military rations collected from all over the world. I don’t know why but loli team start spamming the word spam. Yukari also teaches about MRE (Meals Rejected by Enemy) and the different pricing of rations as collector’s item. Everyone prepares the BBQ but Yukari prepares to do it the old fashion way by cooking with fire. Loli team got too eager in grilling the BBQ that they put everything onto the grill and cause a big fire. Student council team steps in to rescue again. But with lots of food wasted, Anzu shows off her great cooking skills to cook our girls a pretty delicious meal. She may not look like it but she’s good. Everyone watches the beautiful starry sky and notes they have one more training session left before the match. Till they realize that is why Anzu brought them here to this training grounds so they can drive their tanks all they want.

OVA 3
The thought of why schools are built on large ships crosses the girls’ mind. Yeah. They couldn’t believe that they were once built on land. Though elementary schools are still on land. That’s because you can’t expect them to operate a ship, right? Holy cow! You mean this ship is operated by young school girls? No wonder I see girls in navy uniform in the ship’s deck and so. Anyway from what I understand, one of the reasons schools on ships is to cultivate that independent sense. Also, somebody once said education is necessary to be conducted on water. With this method proven, many follow suit and scores of ships rolled out after that. This also improves the economy and the industry and benefited the nation. As they have no idea of the school’s history, the best way is to tour around. We learn why steps on ships are single traffic because making them double traffic would be chaotic in times of trouble. When the girls reach the top deck (apart from Mako having fear of heights), they have an overhead view of the city. It’s like a mini city on its own. Theirs can house 10,000 people, including staffs, crews and students. They also tour the ship’s deck and talk about students who take naval studies. Their courses might be free but they have to work hard in operating the ship. Energy sources from the sun, air and sea are also discussed. The ship is also fitted with its own fish breeding ponds and water treatment. How did they build this ship so big? Well, they are built in massive blocks so it’s impossible to cross over. That’s why people live on the top. After walking around the big place, the girls feel tired and go soak in a well deserved outdoor bath. They note that every school is different and has its own feel. Although Ooarai feels worn and messy, it feels comfortable and well maintained.

OVA 4
This one only lasts 3 over minutes! Why? Because it’s the full dance version of the anglerfish dance! We see the girls dressed in tight pink anglerfish suit as they dance to the strange tune with equally strange dance moves. Moving their hands, shaking their butts, jiggling here and there. Oh, those movements… No wonder it’s embarrassing! Even the ang-ang-ang lyrics are equally amusing, funny and weird. Yeah, part of it includes on how to eat it! I wouldn’t be caught dead trying to imitate this! Let’s say I would prefer to do Gangnam Style compared to this… Sheesh…

OVA 5
This one happened during the match with Pravda where Ooarai girls were trapped in the building and Miho sent some scouts out, particularly Yukari and one of the rekijo team girls, Erwin. When Erwin’s feet feels cold, they take a break and Yukari puts some pepper to make it warm. We learn about the types of boots used in cold wars and how it kept the soldiers’ feet warm. They also talk about some story of an exercise between JDSF and American army. The latter panicked because the cold wave struck. The JDSF was holding out because they had heating pads and were trained in cold conditions. Heck, they were seen playing snowball fight! True or not, we don’t know. Continuing their mission, they spot the enemy location but decide to take the complete loop back. It is when the blizzard grows heavier so Yukari armed with her trusty little spade digs a temporary cave to hide in. When it simmers down, they trek till they see the enemy’s flag tank. They dress up in Pravda’s coat (why were the coats hanging outside some building?!) and talk to a member of the flag tank while impersonating as her seniors. In their talk, she reveals about Katyusha’s child-like habits and more importantly the position of the other tanks as well as its attributes and firepower. Now that they’ve got their hands on the juicy bits, they bid farewell and hurry back, eager to report their findings.

OVA 6
The Ooarai girls are celebrating their victory. After reading out a few congratulatory notes from other schools, we skip them because it’s really boring, right? We know St Gloriana, Pravda and Saunders but who the heck is Chihatan Academy? Now on to the main event. Student council team wants everyone to perform a hidden talent and the winner will get a grand prize worth 100,000 Yen. Are you up for it? First up is public morals team. After singing a weird song, they do cheap tricks like cloning and teleportation. Hey. They all look the same, right? Nobody is amused. Next is the automobile team and they do a magic trick of transforming a tank into another. Don’t worry. They’re just card boards. Online tank nerds team were quickly put out of their act when they started humming some strange song nobody understands. Loli team performs cheerleading worthy acts while volleyball team mimics others. Hana is particularly interested in this game as she eagerly guesses correctly all that they imitate before they could even start! But she couldn’t guess when they are imitating her! And she got so disappointed when it ended… Rekijo team puts on a Little Women play but were disqualified since they were putting in too many of their history facts inside the dialogue. Next is heroine team collaborating with student council team. The former put on some kung fu pose in this Power Rangers spoof to defeat the evil monsters. Anzu acts out of script and defeats them. Finally it is the student council team’s turn as they put on a Swan Lake ballet dance. Momo spins into perfection… And so the results are in. Third place goes to loli team. Heroine gets second place and first place… Student council team! Hey! That isn’t fair! They won the grand prize of 100,000 Yen worth of top quality dried potatoes. Hmm… Come to think of it, maybe the third place prize of shopping district lottery and second place prize of cafeteria coupons aren’t so bad after all.

Tanks For The Ride!
What can I say? I am truly thrilled and amazed at this series. In short, I love it! It’s awesome! It is mainly thanks to the good execution of tank action and strategy that really got my attention and I was really glued to the screen for the duration. At least during the tank battles. Each time it ended, I just couldn’t help wish it was longer. Having cute girls piloting the tanks is just like icing on the cake. Well, that is what anime is all about. Would you prefer to see burly and sweaty men spewing vulgarities while trying to shoot each other in those big machines? Think not. So high school girls for the win! Even if you are not a tank enthusiast, the tank battles are quite entertaining so I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Unless your taste differs very much from this.

The action is simply fantastic and I love the strategies both sides come up with. It is the main ‘selling point’ of the series. But of course we are put in the shoes of Miho as we see her natural talent leading her team to victory. There is never a dull moment when I watch the tanks go into action. I was really glued to the screen and when the episode or battle ends, it feels that I have lost track of time. I wanted it to last longer but as they say, good things must come to an end. I always looked forward to the battles and the excitement is such that I was drawn into this world. Unfortunately it didn’t really get my interest up in tanks after the battle ends. There are a number of trivia here if you’re a tank or battle enthusiast. Just look at this link at Anime News Network. Amazing, no?

I have a feeling that the opponents Ooarai fights in this series, it’s like the producers wanted to pit Japan against other famous tank nations. So we’ve seen them go up against the British, Americans, Italians, Russians/Soviet Union and finally the Germans themselves. No Poles, French or Czech types? Well, not enough to put them all into this anime. I don’t know what Japanese tanks are but I suppose with cute girls of Ooarai and with them having different personalities, maybe they represent what Japanese tanks are! Hah! More like cosplay, no? Besides, Ooarai is the only team whose members wear sailor school uniform into battle. Notice how the rest of their opponents’ uniform resembles so much like the military? And they still lost… Cute high school girls for the win!

At first I thought it was pretty unfair that Ooarai had to battle with opponents who have double the amount of tanks in their field. Although there is a rule that limits how many tanks you can field into each round, it looked only unfair to Ooarai because the issue is from their side as they do not have enough tanks in the first place. That is why the capture the flag method is the game play for the nationals. You can field in 100 tanks but each side only has a flag tank. Just like in chess, if you take out the king, your entire team goes out. Therefore in this context, the game to both sides is fair. But still, I feel that because of the lack in numbers, it made a little disadvantage to Ooarai since if they had extra tanks, they could have employed it for other positions and missions. Imagine having 2 players mark 1 member of the opposing team. That’s not fair, right? But it shows that quantity is not the key to victory. As proven, Miho’s strategy and strong heart is the one that led her small team to victory despite her opponents having more and better equipped tanks. Oddly, the only team that Ooarai lost to is St Gloriana and that is because it wasn’t really an important match. Just a friendly. Besides, it’s the only non capture the flag match in the series. See? They win matches when it counts the most, right?

Character wise, we only see character development in a handful of the main characters. Because there are too many members even if it’s a small school and club for Ooarai, it wouldn’t be enough for just a dozen of episodes to cover everyone. So I guess from the way I see it, everybody develops together and progresses as a group and team. They quickly put their trust and respect in Miho after she leads them to victory. If you don’t trust your commander, who are you going to trust? That’s why it is an important point that all the girls of Ooarai’s Senshadou club have 100% unwavering faith in Miho. She has grown up to take charge of her own life and not run away. She thought not having to face Senshadou again would be the end of her problem but it is not really Senshadou that was keeping her low self confidence. She could have gone through the rest of her school life in Ooarai uneventful but would she feel happy and fulfilled? Didn’t look like it to me when she cut herself away. At first she may seem reluctant after being dragged back but with the support of her friends, she learns to accept and overcome her shortcomings and in no time bloom into a natural leader with her own style.

Miho’s other friends are also likeable as they have their own personalities. Like Yukari she is the most resourceful among the group and her knowledge not only in tanks but anything that is related to wards would prove beneficial and advantageous to her mates in battle. She’s quite a handy person if you’re in a little pinch. But her obsession and wide knowledge as a tank otaku may make her sound creepy in the sense that it doesn’t make her feminine. What the heck. She doesn’t care about that but her tanks, right? Speaking of feminine, Hana and Saori sure have some feminine qualities but it is odd to see them doing something un-feminine in Senshadou, right? Saori’s always talking about wanting to have a boyfriend but gradually I notice she doesn’t bring this up as much as Ooarai progresses. Maybe she’ll snag one now that they are champions? Hana is beautiful with her long flowing black silky hair and of course it is funny that she loves to fire. More exciting than flower arranging? I’m sure her beauty could prove to be a fatal distraction should she be on the front lines of the battlefield. Finally there is Mako whom I feel is the tsukkomi of the group. Despite her sleepy demeanour and only thinking about sleep or extra credits, she sure has a knack for commenting in-your-face punch lines with that monotonous voice.

The other notable characters of Ooarai are the student council team. Anzu is cool and is always very carefree. Whether the situation is getting bad or good, she is just casual and never panics. It’s like everything is part of her plan or she has some sort of way to overcome it. I guess it is better than panicking like Momo, huh? I still can’t get over the fact that she’s a bad shooter. It could have been the running joke of the series but thankfully Anzu switches with her so that she could make most of her shots count. Plus, Momo feels like the most emotional one among the girls. She easily gets excited or impatient (and even pessimistic) during tank battles and has short temper and fuse, easily breaks down and becomes emotional. Man, that’s a lot of fluctuating emotions for a girl. Ooarai could have been an unstable place if she helms the president position. Thank God for Anzu. As for Yuzu, I thought her role as being the student council’s lackey is going to be a running joke since Anzu usually dumps most of the jobs on her. But when you’re in a team with Miho as the big commander, I guess everyone had their role to play.

Then there’s the loli team who were once scared little girls. They’ve owned up for their earlier mistakes and learn what it means to be a team. Rekijo team isn’t bad either but I thought they were going to be annoying by spamming us with their history lines or act like their favourite historical personalities or something. Fortunately that didn’t happen but it also means that they don’t make much of an impact (as in, if they’re supposed to be like their personalities, they should be dominating, right?). It is odd to see the volleyball team doing Senshadou but even if the reason for them joining is to revive their club, I wonder how the heck this condition was made. Were they threatened by the student council like how they did to Miho? But seeing that they end up having as much fun as the rest of the girls, I wonder if they want to revive their club again. Is their number one passion now Senshadou or volleyball?

Newer teams I feel are just there to make up for the numbers although I don’t feel it’s a bad thing since Miho had her strategies for their roles. But in terms of character development, there is nothing much to be said. Public morals team are obsessed in keeping the order so by some twisted logic they join Senshadou just to bring that order. Sodoko and Mako’s relationship is amusing because it’s like a love-hate relationship with the latter always calling her Sodoko nickname much to her dismay despite several warnings. It’s like they did it on purpose. In a way, it’s like they get along well with each other, no? Automobile team has potential talent in Senshadou because who knows the tanks better inside and out (aside Yukari, that is) than those who maintain it? Lastly, online tank nerds team’s cameo appearance felt comical because they were taken out so early. But as we see it, it’s a blessing in disguise. Now do you realize why online games and handling stuffs in reality are totally different? You thought firing a gun from a first person shooter game was piece of cake, eh?

Just like in shonen animes, the enemies that they defeat or at least put up a formidable and close fight become their friend. After the first match with St Gloriana, I don’t know if Darjeeling has picked up a penchant of quoting idioms from all around the world because that is what she always does while sipping her tea watching Ooarai in action. Has she become an Ooarai fan because she seems to frequent their matches. Then there is that boisterous loud Kei that stereotypes what Americans look like in the eyes of foreigners. Arisa is perhaps the worst kind of character in the series, surpassing bratty Katyusha and even Erika because they are gracious in defeat and were professional. In times of trouble, a person’s true colour is seen. When you’ve got a chief like her in distressful times, team morale obviously goes all time low. So she serves as an important reminder that the higher ups play a vital role down the line that ensures the crew’s self-esteem and the team’s ultimate success.

I’m not sure about the fanservice but definitely I’m not here for this. There are a few scenes of the girls soaking in the bath with the obligatory white lights censoring out the necessary parts. Will this come undone in the BDs? Well, I’m not interested to find out since I’m more into the tank action. Besides, I don’t think many of them are that physically endowed, right? I don’t want the fanservice to ruin such a great show. On a trivial note, if this series did have a decent amount of fanservice, I would have nicknamed it as Girls UNDerwear PANtsu tease-ZER…!!! Haha!!! Really! I can’t believe I thought up of this one…

The series also does a good job in keeping viewers informed with some of the tank details, tank operations or certain information about the wars. Although I am blur when it comes to the explanation since I’m a total noob when it comes to this area, nevertheless I feel it is quite informative especially with Yukari as the tank and war nerd, she is quite knowledgeable about them. To a point that if she was in the army back in those old days, she might have led her country to victory! Oh wait, she isn’t a good strategist like Miho so it still is no use if she doesn’t have a good commander to make use of her good skills. With such information of the different tanks and different attributes they have, a good thing is that they don’t overwhelm us with such data and manages to let us enjoy the show without turning this into some tank documentary. I know the tank model numbers are a headache for me and I can’t even remember a single one of them. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying this show. Till this day, I can’t name the tanks our Ooarai girls have or even tell apart which team rides which tank despite obvious physical differences. I’m such a bad memorizer…

There are a lot of casts for a single season anime thanks to the several teams which at least have 3 people per team. As usual I couldn’t recognize Yuka Iguchi as Mako because she was putting on that sleepy-cum-dead and monotonous tone unlike her bratty and annoying Index from To Aru Majutsu No Index or Maria from Boku Wa Tomodachi Ga Sukunai. But I believe this isn’t the first time she has voiced such a role. I remember she did the same as Mero in Sankarea. Hisako Kanemoto (Ika in Shinryaku! Ika Musume) was the voice behind Katyusha. Although there is nothing wrong with her voicing this loli, I thought Rie Kugimiya would sound best to do this bratty loli. The rest of the main casts include Mai Fuchigami as Miho (Maekawa in Denpa Onna To Seishun Otoko), Ai Kayano as Saori (Ai in OreShura), Ikumi Nakagami as Yukari (Keiko in Futari Wa Milky Holmes), Mami Ozaki as Hana (this is her debut and her only other anime role is Fuuri Watanuki in SoniAni), Misato Fukuen as Anzu (Natsume in Hidamari Sketch), Kana Ueda as Momo (Rin in Fate/Stay Night), Mikako Takahashi as Yuzu (Rushuna in Grenadier), Shiori Izawa as Sodoko (Mayumi in Gin No Saji), Rie Tanaka as Maho (Suigin Tou in Rozen maiden), Eri Kitamura as Darjeeling (Dee in Kamisama Inai No Nichiyoubi), Ayako Kawasumi as Kei (Nodame in Nodame Cantabile) and Hitomi Nabatame as Erika (Margery Daw in Shakugan No Shana).

Because I like this anime, somehow the generic opening and ending anime themes sound quite likeable. DreamRiser by ChouCho is your typical upbeat and lively anime pop opening song while Enter Enter Mission by quintet voices of heroine team is a cute girl group anime pop. What is even cuter are the girls in chibi form riding their tank and bopping about. But the music that scores and personally my favourite are the background music. Most of them are those military and marching songs and I love the main theme, Panzer Vor which has this playful and fun feel to it. I can’t get help hum this tune each time I think of this series. So addictive that I can’t get it out of my head! Though there are a variety of other tunes from battle themes to casual and slow ones, the best ones are still the military and marching themes although I feel that some of them are just variations of Panzer Vor. So much soundtrack that they have to split it into 2 discs! The first disc is the main soundtrack while the second one contains other songs which include vocals (including Katyusha’s theme and the anglerfish song) and familiar military pieces written by other foreign composers such as Battle Hymn of the Republic, The British Grenadiers and US Field Artillery March.

I’m not going to bore you about the friendship and teamwork theme that sees Ooarai working their way to victory by beating heavy favourites. And also about that trust and believe thingy. We all know how important those are. Despite my triple (or even quadruple) thumbs up for this series, however I won’t say that I have turned into a tank enthusiast after watching this. Sure, cute girls and tanks are a weird but deadly-cum-amusing combination. Still not enough to turn me into a tank otaku in that sense. But I will definitely come back to watch Ooarai in action if there is going to be another sequel. Since they’ve conquered Japan, maybe now they can do so for the world? After all, they’ve got some experience taking on some ‘localized foreigners’, right? If tanks are kept for only sporting purposes and could foster greater ties and relationships among us, I don’t even mind and would even support it. Then maybe I should give Tanks Online a try…

These days, there have been lots and lots of animes about cute girls doing cute things. Girls forming a rock group? That’s cute. Girls playing mahjong? That’s cute. Girls drawing art? That’s cute too. Heck, they don’t even need to do anything but even hang out and bum around with their antics to be considered in doing something cute. But do you view girls with guns cute? That would be dangerous, right? Don’t worry. These girls are airsoft maniacs. They love playing this survival game. Wait a minute. Is there anything cute and feminine about a game that needs you to get down and dirty with the terrain and environment while trying to take out the enemy? Well, leave it to Stella Jogakuin Koutouka C3-Bu to show us the way. A timid girl enters this esteemed school in hopes of changing herself. She gets drafted into this airsoft club and slowly gets drawn into the thrilling and exciting world of airsoft. That’s going to be cute, right?

Episode 1
Yura Yamato is thrilled to have transferred to the prestigious Stella Women’s Academy. It’s the beginning of a new chapter in her life. This is where she can finally change. Till a student asks her for directions to the dorm, she starts freezing up. It took another student to show the directions and Yura is soon forgotten. She is shown her room but her third year roommate, Sonora Kashima is currently away at her hometown. To her surprise, she sees a gun underneath a pillow. Oh sh*t… And the entire wardrobe contains army fatigues… Oh my goodness… Elsewhere we are introduced to a bunch of crazy and weird girls of the academy. They belong to the airsoft club called C3 Club. Karila Hatsuse, Rento Kirishima, Honoka Mutsu and Yachiyo Hinata admit they are weird deviants because they love playing airsoft. They lament not many girls like to play this survival game. So desperate for new members, they even plan how to snag new first year students after the opening ceremony! Just hope they don’t kill them! Of course they don’t think this is going to work out and the best way to release their frustration is to play a survival game. Rento goes back to Sonora’s room to retrieve her gun when she sees Yura playing Rambo all by herself!!! OMG! She’s fully dressed up and she must have been influenced by the Rambo movie she just watched!!! Rento immediately jumps with joy because she has found another weirdo. Yura is brought to C3 Club but she’s not saying anything. The rest try to tempt her with goodies but the only reason why she isn’t reacting is because they pronounced her name wrongly. They think she is in to cakes when she reacted. It’s because Rento pronounced her name correctly. Yura thought this is some snack club where you get to laze around and enjoy eating snacks. Till she is explained that this is an airsoft club. You ‘die’ when you get shot. Can you blame Yura for freaking out?

Back in her room, Yura laments she can’t make normal friends. She feels lonely when she hears other girls next door striking up friendship. As she walks outside, she sees a cake on the floor. She takes the bait and falls into Rento’s trap. So does she really react to cakes? Rento pleads to her to join but she is reluctant. It is when she hears how the other girls are making great friends that perhaps Yura’s loneliness kicks in and decides to try it out. Yura tries out her first survival game called Rambo. One of them will be Rambo and the rest sheriffs. If Rambo is shot, he loses. If all sheriffs are shot, Rambo wins. Of course it may seem unfair but Rambo is allowed to equip himself with some heavy machine gun. Karila, the club’s ace becomes Rambo as the rest get into position. Yura is taught some of the basics of airsoft game as she witnesses the true survival game before her eyes. Karila uses deception to trick her enemies like abandoning her gun so she could move faster. One by one, Yura’s teammates get eliminated so Yura starts fantasizing Karila as the macho Rambo and she herself trying to take on her with her pea shooter. What are the chances?

Episode 2
Yura is back in her room, unsure this feeling she has right now. By the way, she lost of course. Sonora comes back and the duo get to know each other. Sonora tastes her handmade onigiri and finds it firm without being stiff. She remembers her master made her make perfect onigiri before letting her handle a gun. Because that was the key to understanding the basics. When Sonora asks if she has joined a club, Yura mentions trying out a weird club playing a survival game. She admits she did have fun. And guess what? Sonora is the president of C3 Club. Of course she is invited to join but Yura is still undecided, fearing she wouldn’t fit in. Soon the other C3 Club girls heard Sonora ends up rooming with Yura and thinks she has a plan to recruit her. On the contrary, she has none. So the girls become desperate in trying to make her join by wearing in cheap disguises and forcing her to sign on a club application form cheaply disguised as a survey form, etc. I think this is scaring her off more. Because she still can’t make up her mind, the only way left to decide this is via survival game. Yura is tasked in protecting Sonora and avoid getting the ‘VIP’ shot while making their escape out from the old building. If Yura wins, she doesn’t have to join but otherwise she will have to and in addition to that, Sonora will have to clean their guns in her swimsuit. Sonora is confident they’ll win without touching her gun.

The game begins and despite the first opponent Yachiyo in their way, Yura is nearly in panic mode but thanks to Sonora guiding her, they manage to use an old empty drum and ricochet the bullet back at her. Down to the next floor, Rento is confident Sonora is going to use the window due to her unorthodox method. Surprisingly, she used the stairs normally! They trick Rento and Honoka into shooting each other. In the final floor, Sonora knows Karila won’t be easy pie. She plays dirty by cutting a hole in the wooden floor! Too bad Karila also thought of the same and they’re under attack. Great minds think alike, huh? Sonora and Karila face off in an acrobatic showdown as Yura is awed with what she sees and starts fantasizing. Sonora gives Yura the confidence that she can do it and with her guidance, they win. At the end of the day (after getting reprimanded by the teacher for that hole in the floor), Yura finally speaks up her intention that she wants to join. But she won, right? It doesn’t matter. Because she has made up her mind. And so the C3 Club girls are overjoyed that they have gained another weirdo. Oops, I mean member.

Episode 3
Yura is taken to her first major airsoft tournament, which is capture the flag style. Despite a little amateur bloopers and hiccups (she actually apologized to the enemy for shooting at him!), Yura is getting the hang of the battlefield. Of course, no need to say for Sonora or Karila because they’re the ace and I think they can even defeat their enemies with their eyes closed. It is a great boost for the girls when they win their first match and they manage to reach the finals. But C3 Club throws caution at their strongest opponent, Meisei Girls’ Academy. They are so strong that the last 4 times they fought each other, it ended in a draw. Their ace, Rin Haruna was once Sonora’s airsoft partner in the USA. Wonder how this girl looks like? Well, Yura gets a chance to see her in person when she accidentally drops her bottle and Rin picked it up for her. Rin and Sonora renew their rivalry. That smile on their faces can’t mean a good thing, can it? C3 Club makes a risky move by moving all out to attack the enemy’s flag and leaving none to safeguard theirs. But Meisei also moves equally at lightning speed to impede their advance. Slowly one by one the C3 Club members get taken out including Karila. Yura is all that is left. Then she hears the Meisei girls wanting to end this by taking their flag but Rin doesn’t care about it and will take out every last C3 Club members. Yura becomes scared and surrenders. At the end of the day, Rin calls her despicable for giving up. Even Sonora agrees with her. What Yura did today made her comrades’ sacrifice in vain by running away. I mean, was she that afraid of losing? If she can’t fight alone, she can’t fight as a team either. She warns her never to do that again. The girls soak in the hotspring and Yura still feels guilty over her actions. The rest give her encouragement that from Sonora’s words this means she has been given another chance. Yura apologizes and after deeply reflecting on her actions, she has finally made her resolved. Next day, the girls are surprised to see Yura cutting her hair short. Looking very tomboyish… Heck, I thought she was a boy! I guess it’s her way to say she’s taking airsoft seriously from now on.

Episode 4
C3 Club is in anther survival game of their own and as usual, Yura starts fantasizing like they’re in one of those World War trenches. She relates this world to the rest but they laugh it off, though Sonora believes in what she saw. Because Yura had the most fun, they declare her the winner. Sonora and Rento bring Yura to a shrine that houses archery practice. Sonora borrows her a Czech made Skorpion gun. Climbing up the stairs, Yura thinks she saw a white fox! At the practice area, they talk about this shrine who houses another god warrior, supposedly a nameless young handsome warrior who died in some battle in some era. I’m not sure if Sonora is trying to scare to not say as she please about this god or else she’ll risk being spirited away. Sonora and Rento demonstrate how they can hit a tiny 5 Yen coin from hundreds of metres away. And they make it look so easy. For Yura, she begins much closer as Sonora explains about being one in the battlefield. Thank goodness I’m not the only one who didn’t get it. Rento didn’t either. So what are the chances Yura would? Yura is thought to be patient and not seek for success because it will naturally come. Once she manages to hit it at first go, she is told to take 3 steps back and continue the process. Before she knows it, she’ll be far away. They thought Yura is a genius and this training will end in no time. However before she begins her next shot, she sees the white fox and then a masked warrior before her eyes. She couldn’t hit the target anymore and the day is getting late. When they leave, Yura realizes she must have left the gun back at the shrine and rushes back there alone just to get it! She sees the warrior who calls himself Choujirou before her. Yura thought she is so tired that she is having visions and thus not taking him seriously. Choujirou decides to show her the true meaning of power since when a human enters the domain of a god, they share a connection with them.

Yura finds herself in Choujirou’s battlefield but the world looks like those water colour art. This is his world as she is told and is resonating with his. As he is constantly fighting, he knows if he loses, he dies. He tells Yura to shoot the enemy but she remains hesitant. Seriously? Using a gun in this era? Choujirou tells her this world takes care of everything for her. This is her escape from reality. She has been here many times even when she was young (this explains all the surreal fantasies she had). He adds her power is capable of engulfing reality and not to run away from it using her imagination. Then, the world will become what she envisions. Because Yura still couldn’t fire, the enemy shoots Choujirou and he dies, sending Yura back to her own world. Yura returns to Sonora waiting for her. She is surprised to learn the gun’s name is Choujirou. Yura tells Sonora what she saw and seeks her advice but if she really wants to find out what happened, she has to return to ascertain it herself. Sonora continues her story how her master was an American soldier but was killed in action. She stopped playing airsoft for a while before picking back up. Yura couldn’t understand because if she said one wins when one has fun, then that makes Sonora always losing, right? Everyone has their own way of playing airsoft and even though they seem like playing the same game, it’s totally different in their minds. Sonora and Rento wait for Yura to finish settle her stuff at the shrine. Rento wanted to give Yura something she forgot when suddenly she is pulled into that world! Yura fires to destroy the enemy’s arrow. Choujirou lives and it rains gold. Everyone is happy. Yura relates this to the other girls but Karila thinks she has old men complex. Wasn’t Choujirou a young handsome guy? They tell her he is an old dude who lived on to fight many wars. Get your history right! Oh… Don’t tell me history is changed too? Sonora gives Yura her Skorpion gun.

Episode 5
Stella’s airsoft girls are heading to a remote island where they will play a friendly with the Seto family (coincidentally everyone here has the same surname). They are the best and fastest airsoft team in Kansai. I guess that’s why the raft they peddled was faster than the cruiser the Stella girls were on. On the first day, both sides enjoy a team deathmatch and it ends in Stella’s victory thanks to Yura who made lots of vast improvements. She is given the honour to blow the whistle to signal the end of the match. That night, the girls have fun together, eating BBQ, play fires, hot bath in the barrel and gaze upon the starry sky. Yura dreams of heading into tomorrow’s game. Because she cannot find her aim and runs away, the rest feel disappointed and leave her. Yura wakes up believing she is a changed person and no longer the pessimistic girl she was. While having their breakfast, it seems the flag for today’s match is missing. Thanks to Seto accidentally burning it for their bath last night. Don’t worry. Sonora has made some adjustments. She uses Karila and Honoka’s bikini top as the flag! Well, they have the biggest bust and it draws attention. Today’s match is a different capture the flag. This version only has a single flag. Teams will slug it out to get that flag and bring it back to their own base. The person carrying the flag if shot is out of the game but the flag stays there. Sonora has devised a strategy to take on the Seto family. Karila and Honoka are having a hard time trying to keep their ground and Seto’s leader, Aoi takes the flag while her teammates cover her. Yura is in a rush to aid her friends that Sonora notices she is reckless in not noticing her surroundings. Seto family has another skill that makes it look like there are multiple shooters. They can fire using both their feet! Are they monkeys?! Aoi is on the home stretch when Stella catches up so she has to drop it and take cover. While both sides trade bullets, Yura runs and brings the flag back to her base, securing another win for Stella. Everyone is amazed and praises Yura but Sonora doesn’t seemed impress. It ends with a group photo.

Episode 6
Honoka isn’t going to allow her friends to buy anymore snacks otherwise they won’t have any funds for the 24-hour tournament. Although the little funds they have is reserved for the upcoming cultural festival. They can only do either of one and not both. They insist they want both! Greedy, aren’t we? Sonora has an idea. Use the funds to buy stuffs for the cultural festival, then use those proceeds for the tournament. Great plan. Now, what are they going to do? First they try goldfish scooping but Rento bought a lobster and it ate up everything. Next, they try a haunted house but they get freaked out when a cockroach lurks so in their panic, they destroyed the entire set. The ‘cockroach’ turns out to be the lobster. You mean, nobody has eaten this guy yet? Honoka is going crazy. They have zero funds left. All the money wasted. Yura asks what they did last year and it was some dance but they needed a month’s practice. Looking at what they have left, sweets, guns and cosplay costumes, Sonora comes up with a cosplay shooting café. Sonora borrows some high tech equipment from an acquaintance for this gig. As the festival gets underway, their café is not having many customers. Maybe the female judo and gymnastics club beside them are drawing in the customers. Honoka sneakily comes up with an idea. She charges a customer for every extra like being taught by a pretty girl. And it is going to cost more if he wants to pick a girl of his choice. He doesn’t mind… Isn’t this ripping off? Oh well, as long as the money is coming in. A couple of good looking guys (so handsome that lots of girls are swooning at them outside), Daiichi and Aira enter the club. Although they are from the Extreme Club, they are also into airsoft and are here to scout them out. Aira is Karila’s twin brother. They mention they will be participating in the 24-hour tournament and Rin is going to be in it too.

Honoka has realized that ripping off too many customers is causing them to lose more of them. They won’t have any more by the time this ends. She initiates Operation Wet. A couple of girls will engage in a water pistol fight before the crowd and the winner goes to the one who manages to shoot and wets the bullseye of the opponent. When it gets wet, it falls off and reveals their bikini top. Guys like that, right? They even get Daiichi and Yura to advertise for them since they can’t resist being in the spotlight. Yura spots her old classmates as customers and she remembers the trauma of being bullied (not sure if they remember her). She is snapped out since it is her turn to take on Sonora on stage. Using her fantasy to turn the scene into a Wild West Mexican standoff, Yura wins her match. Seems Sonora lost was because she got distracted when a kid bumps into Rento and she almost spilled the glasses on her. At the end of the festival, the airsoft girls watch the fireworks on the rooftop. Honoka announces they have enough money for the tournament so everyone dreams that they can continue doing this café for real and the kind of position they’ll take on. When it’s time to clean up, they want to play one last shooting game before sending the equipment back. However it is not working and then it falls apart! How did the water get inside? Seriously, it’s flooded inside. The girls get freaked out and tear the place apart when they see the ‘cockroach’ running about. There goes the expensive machine too… Hey… Do lobsters run that fast?!

Episode 7
Sonora tells Yura that an airsoft gun seller has been caught for illegally modifying the gun which could make it dangerous. However the buyer is still out there. As they walk back, they suddenly have to run for cover when somebody is sniping at them. Noticing the intensity of the bullet’s impact, they think it must be that modified gun. Sonora wants to retreat but Yura is adamant in catching the culprit. So much so she disregards her safety and could have been run over by a car had not Sonora dived to safe her. As a result, Sonora is unconscious. The sniper got away. Happy? As the ambulance wheels Sonora away, Yura thought she saw Rin passing by. Couldn’t she be the one? The girls visit Sonora in hospital and she looks good. Just that she has sprained her ankle and suffered a mild concussion. That means she will have to sit out of the tournament. However she wants her team to participate and have fun in her stead. But the rest have no confidence since without Sonora, it’s like they don’t stand a chance (what is Karila for then?) and even thinks of withdrawing their participation. Yura feels guilty and vows to carry on Sonora’s will in her place. So when we see her ignoring the C3 Club girls and stuffing books in her face, she wasn’t really studying but coming up with tactics and strategies for her team. She really came out with lots of them and with various scenarios! Hey, hey. Are you sure you’re playing airsoft? Yura is motivated to win this for Sonora but does she have to become the strict Spartan to her friends? Isn’t this too much? Nobody is perfect, you know. So the girls train hard in preparation for that ultimate day. And that day has come with the girls minus Sonora arriving at the camp. It’s like a festival atmosphere and they want to have fun. All except Yura. Such a spoil sport. Don’t think you can have fun without Sonora around? Whatever.

They don’t bother with her and go have their fill. Daiichi and Aira’s team are also here. They introduce their other members. Hibiki Tsubaki the geek sniper, Miyagi Mochizuki the attention seeking brat who is a big fan of Sonora (why is she squeezing Yura’s hand so tight?) and her ‘cool’ handsome brother Yoichi. Without Sonora, they think they have no chance even if they disregard Rin’s team. We have a quick look at some of the other weirdoes. Oops, I mean teams. Some feels like cosplay and some from the uniformed services. Man, those guys really take their guns seriously. Do little girls have a chance with experienced SWAT team? I think we know the answer. As they go hand in their participation, they see Rin. Seems she is mocking Sonora for pathetically getting injured. Though she admits she was there at the scene, Karila jumps to conclusion that she is the culprit who injured her. It doesn’t help when Rin puts it ambiguously that she will do anything it takes to crush Stella’s team. Karila is still mad and questions her friendship with Sonora. Well, they used to be friends. And it is precisely that reason why Rin can’t forgive her. She’ll say no more than that.

Episode 8
The tournament’s format will be something like musical chairs. With limited flags dropped in each round, the first team that brings them back into the safety zone advances. The first round begins with 57 teams. Stella girls come into Daiichi’s team and steal their flag. Yura’s plan pays off but they think there is another team in the midst. It is revealed that Daiichi’s team were changing uniform just to confuse them. Karila was supposed to head to the safety zone with the flag but she returns saying it has been stolen. However Yura knows this isn’t the real Karila but Aira in disguise because she ordered Rento to be with her and never come back alone. Stella clears the first round and the other teams keep streaming in. One of the teams they learn got disqualified because one of their members lied about getting shot and continued playing. Desperate to win? Well, don’t look too far because Yura seems to have that feel too. As Stella advances and the day is setting, Yura continues to be strict with her teammates. Even if their formation position is off by inches or if they are slow by a step, she reprimands them. WTF? Doesn’t she know Rento is injured? Apparently not. This causes the other girls to feel bitter because they don’t feel fun anymore with winning only on Yura’s mind. The game resumes till night fall and some of our girls are feeling sleepy. Stella is in the final round and of course the other team they will face is Rin’s Meisei. Before it begins, they receive a message from Daiichi and Aoi’s team supporting them. Aoi’s team who lost to Rin’s team mentions how Rin was merciless as she completely annihilated all her opponents. Because some teams got greedy and decided to take more flags just to reduce the number of rivals in the next round, they risk themselves in the open and got taken out. They thought Rin was going too far just to win and it hit Yura that she is acting something similar but stop short and notes she is still different.

Then Yura goes to talk to Rin about airsoft. What? To Rin, airsoft is like war. It all boils down to winning because it is pointless if you don’t. But Rin is smart enough to know this is not what she wants to ask and is must be about Sonora’s sniper. She didn’t give a clear answer and even hints it might be her. She asks Yura what she is fighting for and did she enter this tournament for revenge. She also knows Sonora would tell her team to go out and have fun instead, which she thinks is ridiculous. She advises Yura that if she continues to follow Sonora’s way, she will never defeat her. When Yura returns to her teammates, they are furious where she went because the match is about to start. Yeah. Now everyone’s upset about something. The match begins and Rin’s team is well coordinated that they’ve got Stella surrounded. Despite retreating, Meisei didn’t back down in hunting them all down. This makes it easier for Yura because if they’re not taking the flag, they know they can go all out and fight back. Stella retreats into a building. Meisei enters and the gun fire begins. Karila squares off with Rin in some gun-fu but ultimately it is Rin who gets the better of her. When Yura sees Karila out, she gets mad. She charges straight at Rin and another round of gun-fu begins. However Rin runs out of bullets and Yura sees this as a chance. One of Meisei’s girls shoots and hits Yura. However she didn’t admit being hit and quickly fires one at Rin. Rin admits defeat and mentions they are alike because she too did whatever it takes to win. While Stella is declared the winner and Yura’s teammates glomp her over their victory, Yura is left stunned and not too happy about her victory. She cheated, right?

Episode 9
Yura’s conscious is killing her. Very guilty feeling. Sonora has been discharged and is buoyed that Stella won. She has Yura tell everything that happened. Everything except for the zombie part. So while the girls are revelling in their victory and shiny gold trophy, here comes Yura coming clean with them. She admits she turned into zombie against Rin. The rest are shocked and find it hard to believe because if it was so, Rin would have already sounded it. Anyway Yura has already called the organizers and they will look into it. Looks like their title is in risk of being stripped. When they call Rin, she denies there is any cheating. And so Stella gets to keep their title but still, Yura is not satisfied. Even if the enemy doesn’t call her a cheater or the organizers didn’t see her cheat (weren’t there supposed to be videos?), Yura can’t leave it like this. She wants to fight Rin and Meisei again as she can’t accept this. Honoka tells her off that Yura went overboard at the tournament. She was strict and didn’t even know Rento was injured. It wasn’t fun. Yura still wants to fight. Before Karila gives her a knuckle sandwich, Sonora cools everyone down. She is okay that the fact she turned zombie and regretted it. It’s no surprise since she’s a beginner but never do it again. Yura then goes to see Rin. Seems like she was expecting her. Yura asks why she didn’t call a foul then. Because she thought that was what she wanted. Yura requests to fight again. Now? Rin is ready. Look how cool she is, pointing one gun at her head and then taking out another and shooting all the bullseye without even looking! Does she have eyes on the back of her head?!

The Stella girls are having their flowing soumen event with a little airsoft twist. Shoot the package hanging on the tree to earn the food. But Karila gets all the weird ones. Eggs? Cake?! A full nabe pot???!!! Who put those things in there?! Everyone had fun except Yura. Sulking girl continues practising her aim alone. She doesn’t join them and leaves early. On her way, she sees a news report that the serial sniper who has been targeting high school girls has been arrested. They are interviewing Rin who had a hand in apprehending him. Her answer of having steady hands and your shots will hit even if you’re not looking baffles the interviewer. But Yura remembers something of the likes that Sonora said. Later Sonora meets Yura at the shrine. The latter wants to know all about Rin and what went between them. She’s serious so she can move on. Sonora was best friends with her. They first met when they were in America but Rin was gloomy then as she couldn’t speak English. But when they both trained under the same master, Rin began to open up and became livelier. Those were happy times. Rin smiled a lot. Then their master got killed. Rin blamed that weakness for his death and changed ever since. She aims for victory in everything and that includes airsoft. Yura thanks Sonora that meeting her changed who she is. But she wants to walk her own path. She demonstrates by shooting with her Skorpion. With her steady hands, all the bullets precisely hit the coin! However she notes if she can’t improve further, there is no reason for her to remain in this club. She puts down the gun and walks away.

Episode 10
Yura has joined Meisei’s airsoft team. Daiichi and Aira are watching Meisei in action and are surprised to see Yura on their side. Yura did a self-sacrificing move to take out the enemy to win the game but this doesn’t impress Rin. When Karila gets word that Yura has joined Meisei, she and the rest thought of bringing her back but Sonora wants them to leave her alone. In another battle that has the medic format (when a player gets shot, a medic comes to that player’s rescue and puts on a band so he/she can continue playing. The winner is the one with the lesser accumulated bands), Yura is made the medic based on her last battle’s performance. She is not happy as she wants to be the attacker. During the match, he grumbles a lot about her role that it took several times for her comrades to call for her attention. In the last 5 minutes, medics are allowed to enter the battlefield. Yura goes all out and ignores her comrade’s call. She finally relents to go attend one when she kept calling for her. At the end of the match, Meisei lost by 1 band. Yura is unhappy. She didn’t shake the hands of her opponent. No sportsmanship. Then she confronts Rin about making her medic. Because she believes they could have won if she was on the attacking side. Wondering if she did something wrong and what needs to be done, Rin replies that only she can answer that herself. Yura thinks she didn’t do well enough and must get stronger. She trains herself harshly to the point she can even fire accurately at the bullseye blindfolded! But her hand is bleeding! Does she know it? Or is she ignoring the pain? Worried Rento sees her and is saddened to see her so thin. She is concerned of her well-being and if she is ever coming back to C3 Club. Apparently she won’t. Because they acknowledge her victory here. That’s just sad, isn’t it? So it is no surprise that Yura’s stats of accuracy, speed and stamina increase but Rin isn’t impressed either.

In another match before Rin could finish her briefing, Yura begs her to be the attacker. However she is made the medic again. Yura will convince her by winning the game as the medic. Meisei wins the match. Yura even kept count of how many each of her comrades hit! But she is still made the medic in the next match. She is told off if she is fighting for the team or just bragging. Realizing the number of hits won’t count, she decides to take into account utilization. She helps out her comrades when they are in a pinch but when one of them ends in an accident, she didn’t view it as a medic call and continue to go after her enemy just to get one last shot. Yeah, she sure did. When the rest (including the enemy) attend to her injured teammate. Before the next match, Rin takes Yura off the team. She demands an explanation because she thought winning was everything to her. Rin counters that she forced her ideals on Sonora and her. She tried to prove her existence through victory but is only forcing herself on others. While Yura continues to deny all that, Rin continues that despite she seemed like doing something for others, she demands something in return. In the end, she only cares about herself. There is no place for her on this team. Yura goes home. She feels lost. Thinking back of everything she went through and the words Rin and Sonora said, she realizes that she made a mistake. Remember all the good times she spent with C3 Club? Oh, those were really great times. She was like family, no? Too late to open her eyes now but it’s good that she did. Because now she realizes she can’t show her face to them again. Meanwhile Sonora is on the phone with her mom. Something about going overseas but she would want to stay in Japan a little longer. She sees Yura coming into Stella’s gates. Very downtrodden.

Episode 11
Sonora relays to her friends that she will be leaving for America to study abroad by the end of the month. No use in getting emotional to convince her to stay back. All they need is to play an airsoft game as a fitting farewell party. That’s how it should be. But Sonora has something to care off first so the quartet plays by themselves and don’t find it fun. Rento goes in search of Yura and finds her playing a shoot’em up zombie game at an arcade. She tells about Sonora’s predicament and despite Yura saying she did nothing but trouble and didn’t belong to C3 Club, Rento tells her to shut the f*ck up. It may be okay for her to run away but please consider how the rest of them feel. This really sucks. I guess those words struck too deep in her heart that even seeing the C3 Club girls, Yura gets scared and runs away. Rento blames herself but the rest don’t think so. Sooner or later somebody would have told her off. Sonora is packing her things and nostalgia has her thinking the sound might be from Yura. Nope. It’s a cat. Then it’s Rin. She apologizes for sending Yura away. She thought with that kind of strength she could save her but unfortunately it didn’t. Although Yura’s skills were unpolished, she improved daily. She was enthusiastic and really loved the battlefield. Just like Sonora in her old days. The other C3 Club girls plan to get Yura back in the club by showing her nostalgic items. But Rento feels this is bound to fail because it’s like they’re being selfish and forcing her to come back. It is better if she comes back on her own. But no time to be down because Sonora messages them to give the green light that she is ready for the final airsoft game.

Meanwhile Yura sits alone dejectedly. To a point she sees her friends face in everybody. The dog looks like Rento??? Seriously… Everywhere she wants to go, it is either closed or out of order. Then it rains. Tough luck. She is sad she doesn’t belong anywhere and has no place to go. Her wandering brings her to the shrine where she hears Choujirou’s voice. She tells him about his problem and doesn’t want to go back to her own world because she has no place in it. He says if she others can’t accept her, why not accept herself. Because, if you can’t accept yourself, how can you accept someone else? Yura is afraid to go back to C3 Club after what she did to them. Choujirou reminds her that they belong in different worlds although it is in harmony. The world she created is not a mere delusion. He tells her to accept herself and others. Only then the world will become a place where she belongs. The rain lets up and she picks up the Skorpion before her. Meanwhile Sonora is on a roll. She’s so damn good that nobody could even get close. She even tells them what to do if they want to beat her and can even sense them! I mean, she could hear Yachiyo’s breathing! What is she? Some sort of super human now? Nobody is good enough to defeat Sonora and they’re all panting like hell. Is this all they’ve got? Who else is there to best her? Oh. You forgot one more. Hey look who is back? Yura gears up and gets ready to face off.

Episode 12
It’s just Sonora versus Yura. Yura certainly looks comical trying to avoid the rain of bullets Sonora fires at her. The others are watching the intense fight despite Sonora is the one having the advantage. Rento realizes Yura not firing back and like as though they’re telepathic buddies, she realizes she is out of ammo. Rento decides to go down to the battlefield and deliver the supplies. Without words, you know they’ve buried the hatchet and Yura thanks her for inviting her to this club. Of course, Rento can’t resist and joins in to team up with Yura. This is followed by Karila as she slips into gear and joins Sonora’s side. Finally the remaining duo give in to temptation. Are they on Yura’s side? Nope! So it’s Sonora’s? Nope! They’re a team of their own. Yeah. A three way battle for supremacy. The bell rings and before Sonora could announce game over, Yura tells her not to. She still has ammo and can go on. There is no such thing as final games in C3 Club. Yura uses her power to transport everyone into her world. Actually it is the grounds of Stella Academy. Then she has all the girls in the school play airsoft with them. So… It’s C3 against the rest of Stella students? How many are there? 1,800 students… Wow. What are the odds? Who cares. They love it! Let’s go! At the end, everyone is happy and catching their breath, thinking what kind of locations they shall play in. But I guess that will do for today. For today. Sonora suggests they visit her abroad because she’ll be waiting. Can students like them travel abroad? And so Sonora has left. Honoka sighs more than usual because they have lost a member. They’re lucky to recruit Yura with her and can’t even imagine how next year will be. But there is no use thinking so much because all they can do now is play a game of airsoft. However they notice Yura is late to the club. That’s because she is trying to invite some new members to join the club. She has changed so much since she first set foot here, hasn’t she?

Episode 13
There are no more bullets left for any airsoft game for C3 Club. Because Karila and Yachiyo ‘wastes’ them all. They never heed Honoka’s advice to save them and they even fooled around and spilled a box filled with it. Contaminated bullets can damage the gun so ‘recycling’ is not a good idea. Sonora suggests entering the Survival Game Field Queen Contest. Think of it as an airsoft-cum-beauty contest. The winner gets a year’s worth of bullets supply and a new gun. Game for it? Karila thinks she’s damn hell of a pretty and will win it while Yachiyo thinks loli is the in-thing today. Counting their chickens, eh? So our C3 Club girls become the 16 finalists for the event. Except for Sonora because she is last year’s winner (really) and has the honour of becoming the commentator alongside Daiichi (he loves so much attention that he hogs his face close to the camera). Sometimes Sonora just commented too much… Other familiar girls included in the fray are Aoi and Rin (her juniors put her up to it). Wait a minute. Why the heck is Aira in?! Is there a category for trap? So the first part begins with the girls trying to appeal themselves to the crowd. And please, no advertising like what Rento did. I don’t know what green furry monster suit Yachiyo is wearing. Yura becomes the clumsy girl in bloomers. And oh. You won’t guess what Rin become. Have ever seen her being super shy?! And she’s a natural. Absolute moe! Yeah. Totally out of character. But we love it, don’t we? I guess the biggest winners are the audience. The second part has the contestants in a survival game. Thankfully none of our usual girls face each other in the first round so they easily ‘terminated’ the other unknown. There is also something special about this contest because if a match cannot be settled in 10 minutes, the winner will be chosen via audience’s vote. The final first round match is between Yachiyo and Aoi. Victory goes to Yachiyo because she tricked the Tarzan with her flashy magical girl with high tech gadgets. Yeah. That.

In the quarter-finals, Karila ousted Yura, Rento got owned by Aira, Rin bested Yachiyo and Honoka won over some unknown whom we won’t care. The first semi-final sees Karila against Aira. Since the siblings cannot settle it, this is where the vote comes in. At first Aira is raking in all the votes and leading like hell! WTF?! Do the people have trap fetish???!!! Unbelievable!!! And then when Karila realizes her clothes have been torn from the battle, she turns from a crude tomboy into an embarrassed tsundere. All of Aira’s votes transferred to her. WTF. How fickle are these people? Well, it proves they are perverts anyhow. The other semi-final is between Honoka and Rin. However Honoka plays some psychological mind games with Rin. Especially regarding Sonora. She let her guard down and goes out. Surprised?! This head strong girl easily lost to psychological warfare? And so it’s Karila versus Honoka final. Both are going great guns and all out at each other. Time is up and so the votes will be counted. Karila is confident her natural blonde beauty and tsundere attitude would clinch her the title. But Honoka who has been giving fanservice shots throughout the match, with all the boobs shot thigh shots and all her sexy curves purposely showing to the audience, she clinches it when she takes off her glasses. Girls with spectacles look cuter when they take them off, right? Well, I thought her racks were the main heavy guns and lethal weapon that sealed the crown. Flawless victory. Rin ponders revenge on the Stella girls but her juniors will always consider her a winner in their hearts. She felt embarrassed by that and ‘punishes’ them to do more training. After taking a group photo, what else there is left? Go for another game of course!

Always Stick To Your Guns!
Well, I’m not really impressed with the series but I wouldn’t go so far to say that this series sucks. Maybe calling it mediocre would be too much too so I would stick my overall comment to just being okay. For this type of genre where sports is the theme, there are 2 ways one can go about. Let’s talk about the first one being the sport itself. Now, I’m not really into airsoft or any survival games like paintball shooting and such so I’m not knowledgeable in this area. So what am I trying to say? In short, the airsoft action in this anime doesn’t really feel exciting nor could you feel the thrill of the game. At first it might be thrilling to see Karila taking up the role as Rambo as she owns the other girls. But that was because it was the first time. Definitely we are thrilled by new things, right? So that was really okay. But as the series progresses, the charm and thrill of the airsoft action just fades. There isn’t anything special about the characters jumping into action, diving into action, shooting their guns, hide behind obstacles, communicate with their comrades, run here, run there, shoot some more. Feels mundane, doesn’t it?

And so there is this dilemma that many matches ended too quickly and you don’t actually feel the effort our heroines put in to make it feel like they actually slog it out and work so hard that they deserve to advance to the next round. But it is also a good thing too because you don’t spend an entire episode (or many episodes like in some other animes) on a particular match. You want to get somewhere in the story by the time the anime ends, right? That’s why with the girls entering tournaments and the series skipping showing us the early rounds is also a blessing. Would you really care about the unknown opponents they gunned down? I didn’t. So important matches especially with Meisei or Rin are given much prominence but even so, I just don’t feel the magic anymore. Run, shoot, run, shoot. Somebody gets hit. Out you go. Even when the Stella girls draw up some tactics, it still doesn’t feel satisfying.

The second thing is if the sport itself isn’t going to be the main focus of the anime, then the task of turning the anime into something interesting or at least retain viewers’ attention should be the characters. I know that the C3 Club girls are close but we just don’t feel it. Besides, there isn’t anything much on the rest of the girls as it is pretty much focused on Yura. Of course she is the main star. We see her totally changed from the first day she stepped into Stella. You can say that she has become a better person after going through all that. At least she is not afraid to speak out unlike her initial timid self. Of course she is not perfect and got lost along the way. She lost sight of what is important when she became obsessed of wanting to grow stronger just to be accepted. She would sacrifice anything and that includes the expense of her friends just to achieve what she wants. But is that what she truly wanted? And even so and now that she has achieved them, now what? She almost lost something precious and irreplaceable in the name of friendship. What she truly wants is to be accepted and she learnt the hard way that she needs to accept herself first before others could accept her. Sometimes there is no need to change because true friends will accept you for who you are.

The other thing that bugs me about Yura is her supernatural ability to draw in the fantasy world. I think this issue wasn’t really addressed here because after her historic changing feat with Choujirou, you won’t really see this magic fantasy of hers again. Okay, maybe for that one last time she turned Stella into a big battlefield for her club members to play with. There is an air of mystery to it and at first I thought she was just some airhead who has got a vivid imagination. You think it’s just all in her mind but as proven it is real. It would have been interesting if this ability to turn the world into what she envisions had a little more focus on. I mean, if she really had full control of this, I think she can easily turn things in her favour. But then again, she was in a period of confusion so I don’t think this magic of hers would even activate. Besides, she has powered up and improved so much that I don’t think she needs to envision the situation to her favour. Unless she feels like wanting to shoot space aliens on planet Krypton. I also think that single episode bringing in the supernatural element really felt out of place with the rest of the theme of this anime. We got characters and plot that is down to earth and then you throw in spirits and dreams? Just strange.

Yura’s other friends in the club don’t really have anything deep to tell us. Yeah. How can you tell everything with just 13 episodes? As usual, a club with eccentric people is interesting with several unique personalities. Aside Yura the newbie, Sonora the confident and cool leader that no one can best when it comes to airsoft (she makes it look so easy). Rento has that dreamy voice and feel to it and sometimes it makes her sound like a cute airhead. Even cuter because she has this friendly disposition. Then you have a tough tomboyish foreigner blonde and Honoka as the observant one from the pact. Yachiyo feels like she is there to satisfy the loli criteria and I thought it is pretty ironic that for the smallest and shortest girl in the club to be the one specializing in long range or sniper position. Sometimes I feel that it is too bulky for her to carry and run around her sniper gun.

Then there is Rin and despite she has a mean face. And I mean that as she doesn’t smile often. Smile, as in a friendly cute smile and not that rivalry grin kind of smile. If she really does, go buy the lottery. I know she’ll be prettier if she smiles but can you blame her making a resolve not to show any weaknesses after her master’s death may have ‘maimed’ her smiling muscles. But she isn’t a bad person. From what I see, she’s just playing the villain especially in Yura’s case just to make her come to her senses. It is more effective that way to realize your mistakes oneself instead of somebody telling it straight to your face. Other characters feel pretty so-so. Aoi feels like an extra after her only episode featuring her Seto family. Daiichi always wants to be in the spotlight but since this isn’t his anime, he’ll just be hogging the spotlight for comic relief purposes. Aira is there just to tease and to a certain extent awaken the trap fetish in us. The rest of their team members are really quirky too but it’s too bad we won’t see and hear much of them.

Although I have said that I am not a person who is into airsoft (even watching this anime didn’t inspire me a bit to get hook into it or look up more on it), I feel the series did a decent job in explaining some of the basics of the game, especially the basic game modes and its rules as well as game ethics or etiquettes. Thus there is a sense of realism in regards to the game. It isn’t some sort of mindless shoot to kill or charging in and shoot anything that moves. Airsoft can be really complicated if it gets competitive. Also, there are a variety of guns used and shown here. This adds to the realism with the guns being referred to their model name and decent detail being given to its physical attributes. Of course the guns are modified for the airsoft game and so don’t go freaking out when you see girls with guns. Heck, some of us might even think how moe it is.

The drawing and style of course fit the theme of cute girls. I guess this is what is supposed to be the selling point of the series. Every girl is somewhat cute. You have tough cuteness in Karila, loli cuteness in Yachiyo, positivism cuteness in Sonora and even dark cuteness in Rin. Cute, no? Produced by Gainax who has a reputation of making weird animes like Medaka Box, Panty And Stocking With Garterbelt, Mahoromatic and Abennobashi Mahou Shotengai, as well as epic animes such as Neon Genesis Evangelion and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, I guess it was weird to us at first for them to make slice of life anime with cute girls. I still prefer Yura with her long hair because cutting it short makes her look so tomboyish. At times I could mistake her as a boy. Sonora is tomboyish too. Heck, all the girls in C3 Club can be considered so. But since that was how Yura was introduced, giving her a new haircut for a new look somehow didn’t quite fit it. They changed the opening credits animation for it but they left the ending animation credits with long hair Yura? Odd. Maybe it’s something they ‘leave’ behind for those who still prefer Yura with long hair.

In the voice acting department, Rima Nishizaki as Rento makes her character sound quite dreamy. There is that dreamy feel to it when she speaks. This is her debut and so far her only role in voice acting. Miyuki Sawashiro as Sonora sounds pretty generic like many of her other roles I’m used to (Tsugiko in Tantei Opera Milky Holmes, Inaba in Kokoro Connect) and Chiwa Saito as Honoka (Natsumi in Keroro Gunsou). Asami Seto as Rin sounds different from what I used to recognize her as Chihaya in Chihayafuru and Konatsu in Tari Tari since she is putting on a lower voice and more serious expression in her character. Other casts include Yui Makino as Yura (Sakura in Tsubasa Chronicle), Ai Kayano as Karila (Mei in Sukitte Iinayo), Madoka Yonezawa as Yachiyo (Ui in K-ON!), Kana Ueda as Aoi (Rin in Fate/Stay Night) and Wataru Hatano as Choujirou (Yuuto in Nogizaka Haruka No Himitsu). The opening theme, Shape My Story by Anna Yano sounds like generic anime pop while the ending theme, Hajikero! C3-Bu by the members of Stella’s airsoft club girls feels like they are having fun with the lively song. Remember, if you’re going to dance around with guns in your hand like that, remember to put it on safety mode or at least take out the bullets.

So overall with the action being just okay and the lack of character development, quite disappointing especially the one on Yura’s delusion ability because it feels like a side distraction now if you think about it and it doesn’t go anywhere by the time this anime ends, some funny bits here and there to tickle our funny bones, uninspiring or too little fanservice (the beach episode with the girls in bikinis wasn’t really a turn on – and they leave it too late and too little with that Honoka’s fanservice moments), that’s why I consider this anime to be just average. Don’t get me wrong. This anime isn’t bad. You can learn a thing or two like when you observe Yura when she starts straying so you won’t be like her. There isn’t anything special that moves me or to even get me thinking there should be another season. Just consider this as a show of friendship with guns. Woah. That sounds ironic, doesn’t it? You can make friends with guns and by shooting each other? Hope it doesn’t send the wrong message. Well, if only real wars were substituted with airsoft games. Airsoft, just like war but we just don’t die. The world would be a happier place? Maybe we need Yura’s magic for that world to come true.

Air Gear OVA

December 16, 2011

What’s with that ridiculously excessively long second title anyway? Could you believe it? How could anyone say that whole mouthful, Air Gear: Kuro No Hane To Nemuri No Mori -Break The Sky-? Wouldn’t it be faster to just say Air Gear OVA since this is how this series is made out and this is how everyone else simply refers to it? Anyway we’re not here to argue about how it is named. So but what the heck does it mean, ‘break the sky’ anyway? You can break through the atmosphere but break the sky? Will crack lines appear in the sky? Okay, we’re not here to bicker about the meaning of its title either.

After such a long absence (at least from my point of view), it was really quite refreshing to watch the much awaited continuation ever since that crappy filler ending of the TV series. Well, there is always good and bad thing when it is made into an OVA format instead of another TV sequel. The good news is that you don’t waste time on mindless fillers as you go straight down to what is necessary with the story and plot. The down side is that you have got to be patient and wait quite a while for each episode to be released. Though there are only 3 episodes, it took around 6 months for it all to be released (November 2010 from the first episode till June 2011 the last episode). Hey, it’s better than waiting for years, right?

So for those planning to jump straight in and watch the OVA, it is better that one should watch the TV series first or at least read the manga. The story of the OVAs develops from there and unless you want to be lost in your own sleepy wilderness, it is strongly advised you do so. Whether it is the characters or even all those fancy terms and jargons, if you have a hard time understanding what the heck Air Trecks (ATs) are or the simple meaning of Storm Riders, it’s time to do some serious revision, baby. Understanding that this series is just about a bunch of kids flying in their over-super-modified roller blades doing all kinds of stunts and aerial battle is just the tip of the iceberg. Besides, it’s not the kind of simple sport that doesn’t let anyone go unscathed or blood unspilled. Oh, all the dark conspiracies and complicated fights all in the name of ultimate supremacy to rule the sky. Well, if God really wanted us to fly freely, He would have made us wings to fly in the first place, right?

Episode 1
Simca is walking in the rain, thinking how scared she is about this battle and wonders if somebody will save her. She remembers offering her help to tune Ikki’s Wind Regalia but he declined seeing that Genesis is their enemy. Shortly after he left, Ringo attacks. Her attack leaves her close to naked and helpless on the ground. Ringo says this is the only way for her who possesses no battle power to avoid this battle. Simca is unconscious in hospital and though Iron is regretting his failure, mad Ikki punches him. Ikki falls into despair but Kururu Sumeragi says to get revenge and is optimistic she can resurrect his Wind Regalia. Narration of a competition to capture and control all roads, all kings and all Regalias. But as time passed, the Royal Regalia dispersed. But when the 8 Kings gather, legend has it the ultimate Sky King who has power over all will descend. That proof is the Regalia of the Sky. The Sleeping Forest, led by Ringo, exists to protect it. Genesis, led by Simca, wants to take it. And Kogarasumaru holds the key. Simca believes Ikki to be the Sky King and tried to join Kogarasumaru but was attacked by Ringo. Ikki is in a dilemma on who to save. Kanon pays Ringo a visit and shows her Ikki’s ATs and making them to be the best but it’ll be tough to beat Ikki. Ikki then comes back and is surprised to see Kanon doing a force kiss on Ringo. He misinterpreted her intentions of holding his ATs so he snatches them and runs away. She tries to go after him but Kanon stops her. She slaps him instead.

Ringo catches up with Ikki and no matter how much she explains, he won’t believe her. This has her conclude that he is her enemy and attacks her. The sneak attack has her snatch his Emblem. She throws down a challenge to crush him. Though he is shocked she isn’t the Ringo he used to know, he accepts her challenge. It is some race and the first one to reach the mountains wins. The night race begins as Ikki is confident he knows the best route since this is his home ground. He remembers how Simca told him she is Ringo’s elder twin sister. She adds Ringo was allying herself with the Rock King and waging war together to become the leaders of Trophaeum. With determination, Ikki is able to pull off his Wing Road but Ringo catches up and knocks him down with her Thorny Road. Meanwhile Sumeragi has completed Wind Regalia’s core, Moonstruck Drop, Bagram. She is praised by Konomi Nijou but unknown to them, Hako Isawa switches them. Back to the battle, Ringo is trying to tell Ikki about the King’s true power, the battle to capture Trophaeum. She thinks all of these should disappear. Ikki didn’t like her idea that all Regalia should disappear so they continue their battle. Ikki gives his version of freedom. She can’t see his reason for seeking the Trophaeum. Is it to become stronger or is it Simca asked him to? Because of Regalia, people fight and stain the free blue sky with blood. Ikki disagrees with her answer because if there are a million people, colours and shapes, there’ll be a million versions of freedom. Unhappy that he didn’t see what she’s trying to tell him, she cuts him down with her Thorny Road, breaking his Regalia!

Sumeragi, who is happily cycling to find Ikki, senses a great battle. She was fast enough on the peddle, then leaps of her bike and the amazing thing in her Regalia was that all the screws and whatever parts fix back Ikki’s Regalia!!! WOW!!! All with exact timing and precision. All in less than 3 seconds before Ikki hits the water surface!!! JUST WOW!!! Gliding on the water and putting Sumeragi to safety, Ikki resumes his battle. It gets even more intense with Ikki unleashing his deadly Wing Road Infinity Atmosphere. Err… Why is the sky filled with Grim Reapers?! Ringo retracts her Regalia and seems to prepare herself to be crushed by him. Maybe this way she’ll get away from Sleeping Forest and find her own peace. But she changes her mind because she hasn’t told Ikki everything yet and unleashes her Thorny Road Max. It backfires and she got pummelled in her stomach. Ouch. That really has got to hurt. Ikki seems possessed by the Regalia but when he activates it a second time, it breaks. Ringo with her last ounce of strength uses this opportunity to unleash her Thorny Road Infinity Atmosphere and send them both crashing into the river below. Day breaks. Ikki sees Ringo waiting for him at the goal. She says it’s his victory and throws him back his Emblem. Then she collapses and starts crying. As Ikki carries her, he says though he is still pissed about the attack on Simca, he learned Ringo was serious and focused though she distanced herself and act strong. He also notes the kindness she has because she’s always putting others before herself. He’ll show her he believes in that part too. Besides, that is the part of her that didn’t change. At the top of the mountain, he says the battle is a draw as Ringo is relieved that she has finally reached him.

Next day, Iron congratulates him for becoming the Air King and will gladly hear last night’s battle. Ikki wonders if he has seen the stairs to the sky. He thought he saw it but haven’t found anything. Though he doesn’t know why he’s aiming for the sky, he feels he may be wrong the whole time and knows nothing about the meaning of freedom. That night as Ringo’s body aches from using the Regalia, Ikki from outside her door says he is leaving this place to find his real wings. He thanks her for making him realize. He’ll only return till he finds them. But she mentions there is 1 thing he still doesn’t understand: Kanon. She quickly opens the door and kisses him. Or so it seems. Just a breath away from touching. Then she pulls back, slaps him and slams the door. The Ringo we know? Yeah, have a safe trip anyway. So Ikki goes on his way and where does he live? In Iron’s luxurious mansion! No wonder it’s tempting to leave that rut, oops I mean home. Hey, why is Iron pants-less?!

Episode 2
Ikki is performing in a street act. Wait. It looks like he is going to commit seppuku! What is Agito‘s first word? “F*CK!”. However Ikki gets to live another day when the girls, Simca (in a wheelchair), Croissant Mask (Ringo in that horrible mask swimsuit outfit), Sumeragi and Nijou all come by. They all heard his problem but it’s going to be a bigger problem. You know Simca, Ringo and Sumeragi all have a crush on Ikki. So this is the first time all 3 are together in 1 place. The trio are ‘fighting’ among themselves to let Ikki now there’s still hope. I guess they took too long so they let opportunity slip when Kazu is the one who brings the good news to Ikki. Why do I get this feeling that Ringo is like a comical tsukkomi role here despite her brief appearance? As narrated, the Gram Scale Tournament determines who stands atop the world of Storm Riders. But Ikki’s blunder denied Kogarasumaru’s participation and was punished to commit seppuku. Whatever his blunder was, seemed Ikki was made embarrassed because his naked butt was showing. However if they are able to get their hands on the Eternal Seed Rights (a permanent spot always reserved in a tournament for one holding this right), they can enter the tournament.

Thus Kogarasumaru decides to pay a visit to the mysterious Inorganic Net world. They manage to find the place since Simca knows them as old friends. This guy, Falco seems like some porn uncle playing ecchi simulation on his computer in his messy apartment. I think he and Onigiri can click. Down to business, he agrees to give them his Seed Rights if they meet his condition. Kogarasumaru (in addition to the 5 guys, the team includes Emiri Adachi and Yayoi Nakayama) are thrust into the cyber world of the floating sky city, Ron Holtz Vaughn City. Their opponents are Simca’s old buddies and ex-members of Sleeping Forest. That’s right Rika, Spitfire and Sora are included in this team. The other members include Falco (he looks like a handsome blond guy. See what the virtual world can do to one’s outlook?), Dontores, Blackburn, Kilik and Ine Makigami. It’s odd that Kogarasumaru enters some weird dance upon finding out their opponent. Is this some sort of a tradition? Even that Agito kid who normally won’t do something as silly as this is doing this dance.

The A-class battle will be Balloon and the goal is, well, to catch a balloon and the first team that gets it within 30 minutes wins. Since this is a 6-on-6 battle, Kilik and Sora are reluctant to join. Agito notes this battle is meaningless without them. So how to let them join? Sly Ikki uses Agito’s hands to caress Rika’s boobs!!!!! WTF?! I guess Kilik and Sora must have feelings for her so they angrily swap places with Ine and Spitfire. Well, at least things are heating up. The battle starts with everyone showing off and unleashing their cool Regalia powers. Kilik realizes that Kogarasumaru have the same potential as them so instead of wasting time fighting them, they decide to go straight for the balloon. Kogarasumaru is on alert since they know the other team is trying to uncover who their Panther is. Short flashback reveals Kogarasumaru members discussing the importance of the Panther role, supposedly to be the fastest Storm Rider in the team. From what I understand, if the Panther is discovered, then it’s game over. Then there are other roles like Decoy (fake Panther), Ultimate (those who’ll fight head on) and Keeper (protects teammates from enemy attacks). So did Ikki adopt this “One For All, All For One” motto? I mean for the sake of the Panther, everyone dies. They want Ikki to decide on the roles but he tells them to decide themselves. Even so Agito tells them all to pretend to be like one.

Back to the battle, Adachi is intercepted by Dontores. Then Buccha and the rest surround him in some strategy based on their one-for-all motto. The rest of the ex-Sleeping Forest members head along and come into creepy cyber monsters including one that can take on the shape of anyone. With Kilik’s clairvoyance and orders, everyone is able to get out of that hell. But it seems Kogarasumaru (minus Buccha who is busy taking on Dontores) are ahead of them. Everyone attacks and when Falco’s kick hit Agito, he reverts into one of the shape shifting creatures. Then they realize everyone is a decoy. The real Agito is speeding up, closing in to take the balloon. However he is intercepted by Kilik and Sora who have predicted his moves. What is Agito’s reply? “F*ck”. He is blown away by their sand storm, Crystal Sand Wind. But how can they find his separate movements? As explained by Rika, every Storm Rider has his/her own Run Pattern. It’s like a fingerprint unique to each rider. Kilik unleashes his Gaia Road and no matter how much Kogarasumaru defend, they’re no match for it. They supposedly lost and should be logged out but Falco realizes the link is not cut and that the battle isn’t over yet. Seems Onigiri did some imaging as he turns into a giant perverted pig targeting Rika! Falco panics that he was hasty and too quick to judge Kogarasumaru’s abilities. Ikki and co revive and the fun is just about to start.

Meanwhile Agito is lying unconscious by Nakayama’s side. His body is badly scarred. Agito’s other personality, Akito barely conscious and tells Nakayama to complete Agito’s tuning and true fangs. I’m not sure about the final scenes about Kilik regretting letting Ikki, Kazu, Onigiri and Adachi face Rika. He isn’t happy that they have that pig as their secret weapon. Onigiri lets in on his secret that he once peeped on Rika changing. He thought it was his first love but was just his first erection! Ikki beats that perverted piece of sh*t up upon knowing the truth.

Episode 3
As revealed, the Panther’s position is important because it is the only one allowed to seize the balloon and win it for the team. The battle rages on and based on Ikki’s observation and gamble, he knows who their Panther is: Rika. But even so, those ex-Sleeping Forest guys aren’t going to have any problems in dealing with them. Meanwhile Akito wants Nakayama to hurry with the tuning but she can’t because she feels like a burden to him. She reveals she has never done tuning before. But Akito believes in her and that she has the ability of making ATs into real magic wings. He will guide her how. Flashback time. A talk between Nakayama and Adachi revealed that the former has feelings for Agito. During a ferocious stormy battle between Agito and another opponent, Nakayama distracted Agito. The rival attacked Nakayama though Agito managed to rescue her in the end (I wonder how she ended up totally naked). Nakayama was always watching the faraway sky with her telescope and always enthralled with it. Ikki and his Kogarasumaru teased Nakayama when she wrote about finding those Magic Wings in her notebook. How heartless could those jerks be? Reading out and embarrassing her. Let Adachi take care of them. But Agito left a note “That thing is always flying in front of you. F*ck!!!”. That’s when she realized she was always watching Kogarasumaru flying in action as though they’re using magic. She felt jealous and impatient that not being able to do more. Nakayama is determined to use that magic. At that time, Agito wakes up and tells her there are already wings growing on her back. He hugs her and lets her hear the flow of his rhythm. I don’t know what this magic thing is or how she does it, but it involves her taking off her clothes. With the confidence she has now, she feels Agito is her magic wings.

Kogarasumaru continues to be under relentless attack from Kilik and co. He notes their Panther is out and their simple strategy is to slowly wipe them all out. But soon Kilik soon something amiss and goes off after thinking he may have been letting his guard down. As Onigiri continues to harass Rika, Blackburn makes a revelation. If Kogarasumaru’s Panther is lying injured, why didn’t anybody check and authenticate his Panther emblem? They’re acting as though they’ve crushed their Panther but perhaps they’re being made to think that way? Then it hit them that it is really true because of Ikki’s smirk. Yup, they’re really acting to make them think so. Kogarasumaru’s Panther is Adachi as she is running up the tower, inching closer to the balloon. Flashback reveals she wasn’t too pleased to be the Panther because she’s the weakest and slowest. Plus, Agito will be the ultimate decoy and purposely take a beating to let their guard down. Adachi gets the motivation to continue running because she loves the team. Kilik and the rest rush over to the tower but Kogarasumaru aren’t going to let them have their way. Dontores and Buccha’s battle is fought to a draw because both are tired out. Falco tries to get in the way of Ikki but was crushed by a revived Agito’s Fang Road. Ikki ‘berates’ him for being late so Agito tells him to go after Kilik. He fires his Fang Road for Ikki to ride on. Ikki says not to talk things which don’t fit him. Doesn’t he sound arrogant when he mentions everyone should just fight for his sake. But in return, he’ll spread his wings for them.

Adachi is out of breath and is just 25m away from the balloon with over 3 minutes remaining. She builds up speed in a do-or-die attempt but gets frightened when Kilik appears in front of her. She makes a screeching stop and runs the other way. Well, though she did thought of escaping for a second, it was just a distraction to throw a stone statue at him! Hey remember, this is a virtual world. This was enough to catch Kilik off guard, give him the slip and make her build enough speed and jump off the tower. However it’s yet-so-close-yet-so-far situation because she can’t reach it and starts falling. But Ikki zooms by and gives her the much needed push and boost to finally grab the balloon. Hooray! Kogarasumaru team wins! Ikki catches falling Adachi and return to the other teammates though she hoped it should’ve been Kazu who had caught her. Kilik reflects his team were far greater in ability. Was it because he let their guard down? No, he was just careless for a split second. By the time he caught up with the Panther, he already used up all his power. If this was a real fight, it would’ve been their lost. Falco notes how Sora didn’t do anything and his reason was he doesn’t want to show those small fries his real power even if this battle was fun.

As Kogarasumaru logs back to the beginning of the virtual world (yeah all their wounds gone. I guess it was so real, pain felt so real, eh?), Falco congratulates them for obtaining the Eternal Seed Rights. He shows them their team’s name on the Gram Scale Tournament bracket. Do the winning pose! But I don’t know why, the other guys start getting angry and beat up Ikki. Maybe it’s all the trouble they had to go through if he had not blunder in the first place? But hey, they went through some good battle experience, right? Another flashback of how Agito pulled out unconscious Nakayama from the river. Thinking there is only 1 way to revive a sleeping princess, when Nakayama opened her eyes, she sees him using a bamboo stick to blow through her mouth.

The Sky Is Only The Limit…
It is rumoured that there will be more OVA episodes to come in the future and it will be interesting to see what is in store for Kogarasumaru and their destiny. I wasn’t a big fan of the TV series but I’m not saying that I turned into one after watching the OVA. At least with the nice pacing of the story with the first OVA focusing on Ikki’s battle with Ringo after the brutal attack on Simca and the following couple of episodes the Kogarasumaru team in action against the ex-members of Sleeping Forest, it doesn’t feel boring or draggy at all. So okay. Maybe I watched all 3 OVA episodes at one go instead of immediately watching it when the episodes are fresh out like hot baked bread from the oven. Indeed watching the OVA brings back nostalgic memories of the TV series and I even went back to read my old blog on this show. Partly because to refresh my failing memory on the terms and some of the plot. Hehe… ;p. And it seems there are more plots, characters and terms to come. My, it’s going to be a little overwhelming for me so I’m going to take a little short break.

As compared to the TV series, I feel that the members of Kogarasumaru are tightly and further close to each other. During the battles, there is display of absolute teamwork, cooperation and friendship. They’ve grown so much and there is more space for them to do so. Perhaps the OVAs were too short to conclude about the changes in character but I can say that they feel a little different. There is this sort of mature feel to some of the characters. Ikki may be a long way off from becoming the Sky King but with the determination and effort he is putting in, it’s no time the world of the Storm Riders will be shaken up. Foul-mouth Agito (nearly every damn sentence of his has that F-word. It’s like his signature phrase) seems much more cooperative though he is still cold but not as unfriendly as before. But I guess there are some things that won’t change like Onigiri’s pervertness. In fact it might have gotten worse! Oddly, I think his other form is a pig which he is being displayed as some of the time. Well, what do you make off, a short fat guy? Hey, better than a monkey, right? Perhaps not. Say, I don’t see the crow (which is Kogarasumaru’s mascot and partly what their team name means) that was usually used back in the TV series as ‘Ikki’s personal censor’. Maybe they should’ve used it when Ikki’s butt was protruding. Nah… I also remember Onigiri rides best upside down balancing his head on an AT! That’s some mean balancing feat for a fatty like him. I remember Adachi and Nakayama who were always following the team when they go for Parts Wars in the TV series. I guess their love for Kazu and Agito respectively has got them to finally join the team, eh? Rika may be Ikki’s big sister and though from the opposing team, it feels like she is quite distanced from the rest here. She was considerably quiet and from my point of view, a ‘nearly-rape victim’. In the TV series, it was Rika who tried to tell Ikki about the dangerous world he was getting into. In the OVA, it was Ringo’s turn. Well, can you defy destiny? Too bad Simca won’t be in action in any time soon since she is ‘grounded’. On an unrelated note: I still don’t like Simca’s short haircut.

Though there are a few new characters introduced but not playing any memorable role (at least at this point since it’s only 3 episodes) like Hako, Nijou and Ine. It feels that their appearance are somewhat fleeting. If they really do expand the OVA, I hope and am sure that these ladies and much more other characters will play a significant role. However there are those that do not appear at all in this OVA such as Ikki’s other sisters, the tough Mikan and the loli Ume. What about Agito’s SWAT officer brother, Kaito who hunts down and arrests all Storm Riders? Don’t see any nose of him at all. I might have forgotten all about him if I did not refer back to my old blog.  Oh, remember that slutty kid-like homeroom teacher, Ton-chan? No time to fool around so I guess that’s why she didn’t make any appearances here.

The path and road that leads to the top of the Trophaeum seems like a complicated and long way to achieve. I mean if you think about it, it is kinda scary to see all the different types of battles that they have to go through in order to achieve that. At the end of the OVA, I remember about the different classes of Storm Riders but it seems Kogarasumaru isn’t your D-class or E-class team anymore. The way they are taking on A-class teams like ex-Sleeping Forest shows that they are a force to be reckoned with. And they have moved from the Parts Wars or territory battles between other lowly teams. So in addition to the 8 Kings, we have this Gram Scale tournament now. I have a good guess about the outcome of our heroes. They’ll meet and face stronger teams, beat them and get even stronger before their next opponent. What is it that Kogarasumaru possess that it makes them the chosen one and fascinated or loathed by many others? That’s why they are a team of crazy people to watch out for.

The art and animation between the TV series and OVA feel slightly different. Since they are produced by different studio houses, the OVAs feel more ‘mature and serious’. Even the entire seiyuu line-up is different. All the characters have been given a different seiyuu and none of the original ones have been retained. But even if they sound totally different than their original counterparts in the TV series, their characters are largely the same so they are still identifiable in that sense. Heck, I don’t even remember how the original ones sounded but what difference would that make? All the ending themes are heavy rock based and it is quite suitable for the pace and action for this OVA. Speaking of action, it doesn’t disappoint either. We get to see the individuals pull off their awesome moves with the right mix of not showing off too much of it and get that ‘intoxicated, over-excess’ feeling and at the same time not too scarce that leaves fans disappointed and wanting for more. Of course we would want to see more aerial action from Kogarasumaru, right? They may be exaggerative and mind blowing but if you can put that aside, you’ll enjoy these aerial stunts. You know those comical parts when characters are drawn in their chibi modes? Well, I thought they look like those Bu Dao Weng tumblers only with stick limbs sticking out. Funny… Oh, the fanservice? Enough to tease fans wanting to see more of Ringo and Rika’s hot bod. Oh yeah… As for the love triangle part, I guess we’ll have to wait and see how it plays out from there from future episodes (if there are any). Looks like it’s not going to be a heated battle to the top of the Trophaeum that is at stake too, if you know what I mean?

So well, roller blading like flying in the sky still seems like a distance dream. Though the trend of roller blading seems to be in hibernation mode, I’m not sure if the trend will see some revival in the near future. Well, did roller skating make a strong comeback? Perhaps if such magic shoes were created, it will revamp the entire extreme sports history. A stadium won’t be enough for people to run and fly with these babies. You’ll need a big city to strut your stuff and wings. Me? If only I could just balance well on my 2 feet and not fall on my butt or knees every 3 seconds…Maybe I’ll just stick to just watching. That will be much safer.