Saturday, 31 May 2014

Mekakucity Actors - Episode 8

Having heard word of Shintaro witnessing an accident, Momo and the others rush to the hospital where he's currently located only to find him protesting vehemently that this was no accident but something else entirely.

The trouble is, nobody seems capable of verbalizing exactly what it was that actually happened (Mekakucity Actors unable to explain what the Hell is going on?  Shocking, I know), but things start to make sense when Hibiya quite literally runs into Momo again.  Having been involved in this incident, he seems keen to get away, but collapses before doing so - having spotted his red eyes, Kido makes the executive decision that the group should take him with them before he arouses any suspicion or, more importantly, activates his as-yet unknown power in the midst of a crowded hospital.

The aftermath of this does at least grant us some insight into how this group obtained their powers, given that they all have a very similar story to share - an incident in which they seemed certain to die, yet somehow survived only to find themselves imbued with some kind of new ability or other.  It also seems that in each of these cases, the individual in question was swallowed up by this mysterious snake-like creature alongside another who was less fortunate and remained trapped in another dimension, never to return.  Is this what happened to Hibiya's friend Hiyori?  It seems likely, but that isn't going to stop him from searching for her, leaving Kido and Momo to give chase and Shintaro to look after Marry - a request which means that it's his turn to have a surprise in store.

There continues to be an interesting story developing within Mekakucity Actors, but boy is it continuing to take an eternity to get there - this wouldn't be so bad if the show had snappier or otherwise more entertaining dialogue, but everything is delivery dryly and most attempts at humour and the like fall flat.  Still, perhaps things are finally on the up, and even the show's animation quality seemed to take an upward swing this week, although with episodes running out this may be too little too late.

Riddle Story of Devil - Episode 9

Tokaku has managed to handle everything that has been thrown at herself and Haru thus far, but a two-pronged attack carried out by both Banba and Isuke might be more than even she is capable of emerging from victorious.

This situation isn't helped by Inukai's realisation that Tokaku is simply incapable of killing (for reasons that we are explained via flashback at the start of this episode), giving her the upper hand in their fast-moving knife fight, which also gives Banba plenty of time to delight in her preparations to provide Haru with a rather uncomfortable demise at the hands of a massive hammer.

Haru isn't one to give up so easily however, and manages to escape the patient Banba's clutches over and over again, using her mobile phone to delay her fate before showing some surprisingly proficient tactics to keep the Grim Reaper from her door.  Compared to this, it seems as if Azuma has reached her limit, ultimately left to plummet from a high window to what will surely be her doom.  At least, it would be were this not fiction, but as Isuke and Banba come to blows over who will succeed in killing a now distraught Haru, there's time enough for Tokaku to recover both her sense and consciousness to come to Haru's rescue.  The game is almost over, but are our heroines about to face their toughest opponent yet?

I'm starting to come to the conclusions that Riddle Story of Devil features a world where all of its assassins are terrible, given how they all seem to fall into the same old traps of inaction, delivering monologues or taking their time to "enjoy the moment" which in turn leads to their downfall - not that this really effects the entertainment value of the show, which continues to impress week after week. For a series that promises violence and insanity, it's surprisingly proficient at delivering emotionally too, with Haru's terror and feelings serving as a centrepiece for proceedings rather well. With some reasonably polished delivery and energy to boot, the show has plenty going for it as it moves into its final weeks.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Knights of Sidonia - Episode 8

There seems to be no end to the battle against the Gauna at present, and things are about to take an even more uncomfortable turn for those involved in the latest skirmish of this conflict.

In short, the Gauna seems to have appropriated not only the look of Sidonia's frames, but also one of their lost pilots, namely Hoshijiro, whose voice causes much discomfort as it rings out over the intercoms of the other pilots while they try to go on the offensive against the enemy they've discovered.  Although this is accomplished with some success, it seems that alongside Hoshijiro's likeness, these Gauna have additionally copied the skills of the original too, making for a difficult battle as Sidonia's finest find themselves matched blow for blow tactically by their opponent.

The appearance of Hoshijiro's likeness and voice is all too much for Kunato who, perhaps wracked with guilt at her death, loses his mind somewhat as events unfold as yet more of his comrades are lost - in contrast, Tanikaze seems determined to keep his cool no matter what, even going so far as to take a "sample" from a defeated Gauna to present to the scientists back on the Sidonia.  Not that those at the top of the ship's command have any issues with cloning, as some time spent delving into the past shows us Tanizake's origins as well as explaining Hiyama's behaviour and opinions giving her pivotal role in those past events and the effect they've had upon her current place on the ship.

As a whole, this week's Knights of Sidonia got its balance pretty much spot on - its space-faring action was delightfully fast-moving and captured the stress of its fluid, developing situation excellently (right the way through to Kunato's breakdown), and its flashback material answered some decidedly important questions while still keeping enough under its hat to continue to present some sense of mystery around the Sidonia and the organisations in charge of it.  I'm not entirely sure whether the show's animation quality has improved or I've simply gotten used to it, but even at its worst Knights of Sidonia's presentation seems to be far less jarring than it was initially, which is helping to power the series along in some interesting directions - I'd almost compare it to Attack on Titan with sci-fi trappings at this stage if I didn't imagine people wanting to wreak bodily harm upon me for doing so.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Selector Infected WIXOSS - Episode 9

Yuzuki has finally fought her way to victory, claiming her place as an Eternal Girl and making her wish come true - but has she lost something of herself in the process?

Meanwhile, Ruko is seeming at least a little more cheerful, but beneath that exterior she still continues to puzzle over and try to process recent events in her head, to no avail - at least this means that battling is far from her mind, as it is for Yuzuki as she and her brother finds themselves in the midst of escalating rumours about their relationship. This doesn't seem to faze Yuzuki at all however, and instead she uses it as a jumping off point to confess fully and completely to Kazuki, even showing little concern when he runs off in a state of shock and upset.

If her demeanour is merely as a result of confidence in her wish being granted then it's certainly with good reason, as eventually Kazuki confesses his own feelings towards his sister, even if we'll never know whether they were genuine or merely brought about by the process of becoming an Eternal Girl.  Thanks to a chance meeting between Hitoe and Ruko, we now know exactly what that phrase means too - Yuzuki's LRIG Hanayo has now taken control of both her body and her wish, leaving Yuzuki herself to become the LRIG that coincidentally ended up in Hitoe's hands. How Ruko will react after being fed all of this information in the midst of battle is just one the questions left hanging as the episode comes to an end.

The big twist in the tale was made clear by the end of last week's episode of Selector Infected WIXOSS, but now that it's fully out in the open I'm curious to see what they do with it, particularly given that Yuzuki and Hitoe are effectively fighting together - will all of the figurative and literal cards being laid out on the table change their strategy and approach towards the Selector system?  I'm still not sure whether any of the wider questions such as why this is all happening in the first place will ever be answered, but for a series that threatened to be a Madoka Magica-a-like in its early running there's no doubt that the show is now striking out in its own direction, which in itself is ensuring its continued place as one of the spring's must-watch shows.

Nanana's Buried Treasure - Episode 8

It's tough being a student - especially when you're roommate is a ghost girl with a penchant for video game all-nighters and a former colleague at the organisation you worked for suddenly transfers in as your classmate.

All of these are mild problems which Juugo has to grapple with early in this episode, as his tiredness is followed by having to deal with a testy Tensai, the aforementioned new transfer student Testu and his over-reaction to an incident involving the girl in her charge (and another reappearing character) Saki Yoshino.  All of this pales into comparison to the concerns which arise when a far from likeable former member of the Adventure Club arrives in town.

Particularly affected by the return of Hiiyo Ikusaba is Nanana herself, who is clearly distressed by his turning up outside of her room - a feeling further intensified by his referring to a piece of the Nanana Collection in his possession as garbage.  As it turns out, Ikusaba was Nanana's former roommate prior to Juugo, although his attitude towards the room's resident apparition couldn't be more different.  Is Hiiyo simply hanging out to relive past memories, or is he hatching some kind of evil plot?  Given his personality and the places he's choosing to visit (not to mention the fact that, well, this is an anime series after all), the latter seems by far the most likely option.

While I'm interested to see the series seemingly building to something big for what I assume will be the show's final story arc, it was difficult to really get involved in this week's episode of Nanana's Buried Treasure - it started off a little rushed and disjointed, but more importantly I couldn't find anything to get my hooks into as far as Ikusaba's character is concerned.  Perhaps his actions are more important than his personality, but as villains go he feels a little too much like a cardboard cut-out bad guy, especially in a show that has been at its most delightful in terms of blurring the lines between good and evil in some clever ways. Hopefully the pay off will be worth this build-up, but having had a lot of fun with this series the past couple of episodes have left me feeling a little more skeptical about it.

Ping Pong the Animation - Episode 8

We've been seeing changes from all of its main players in recent weeks, and now its time for those adjustments in attitude and abilities come to the fore as the qualifiers for the national table tennis singles championships roll around.

Of course, it's Kaio's team of highly trained athletes who expect to dominate over and above all else - a feeling perhaps helped by Poseidon's marketing tactic of covering the floor of the event hall in matting, leading to a rush for their shoes designed for just such a surface which they coincidentally happen to have on sale at the tournament.  Then again, even the man fronting the commercials for these shoes, Kazuma, sees no need to actually wear them on the court, as he remains as hard to read as ever.

Of course, there's also plenty of interest in Tsukimoto's place in the tournament, which he justifies by breezing through his opening rounds while barely breaking a sweat.  His second round match is overshadowed however, as Hoshino and Kong come face-to-face once again in a match-up which leaves the latter expecting another easy ride before quickly being faced with no shortage of evidence as to how much Peco has changed since they last met.  Having lost the first game, Kong clearly needs to pull something out of the bag, and aims for what seems to be his opponents one clear weakness... only to find that it was a bluff.  With an emphatic victory, Hoshino is clearly now the great player that he always threatened to be, his skills bolstered by a mix of hard work, and learning and refining new techniques.  Is it enough to best Kazama or Tsukimoto, however?

Fascinating series though its been throughout, Ping Pong seems to work best (and particularly in visual terms) when it comes to the actual table tennis itself - while some sports series feel the need to comment on every moment or emotion via some kind of inner monologue or outward exposition, Ping Pong knows when to let what's happening on-screen do the talking, whether it's directly or via some kind of metaphorical imagery.  It's this ability which marks the series out from the pack, especially when paired with the waxing and waning of the stars of its cast as the hallmarks of the tale of sporting endeavour which the show encompasses in such an entertaining way.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

No Game No Life - Episode 8

With the discovery of the breakthrough that they needed to advance their game plan, it's time for Sora and Shiro to begin Imanity's campaign against the Warbeasts of the Eastern Federation.

Of course, one does not simply walk into Warbeast territory - one waves at them from afar before popping over for a lovely chat.  Of course, these mind-reading, animal-eared folk know exactly what the group that arrives are after, and so no time is wasted before we're introduced to this land's ambassador - the rather adorably diminutive Izuna Hatsuse.

From here, the game really begins, as what seems like an insulting bet (Izuna's panties for Steph's, if you must know) is really the start of a monologue that sees Sora strip away layer after layer of the mystique surrounding this rival race - they aren't mind readers, they're simply capable of telling whether someone is lying and using that as part of a "cold reading" technique, and the reason they wipe the memories of their opponents is to protect the nature of their game is because their technological advancement gives them the upper hand of being the only nation with video games available to them.  Of course, cheating in a video game is easy, but Blank laugh in the face of such attempts, leading to Sora upping his bet to include the entirety of Imanity in a wager against all of the Warbeast's land. Surely this isn't a good time for the leading man to simply vanish into thin air?

I'm not sure anything can top the crazy game of Shiritori against Jibril, and as a result this week's episode feels a little convoluted in its explanations and revelations - however, there were still some nice moments sprinkled in to Sora's long-winded explanation that made up for some of its panty-obsessed silliness (which does at least feel in-character rather than entirely forced, I supposed).  With Sora's disappearance and its effect on Shiro, there could be some interesting fare ahead though, so now this latest game is afoot we'll be treated to some more of what No Game No Life does best with any luck.

One Week Friends - Episode 8

It's the summer holiday, and although Kaori and Hase are having a good time - much of which they're spending in one another's company - there's one staple of the season that they're yet to embark upon.

The missing link here is, of course, a trip to the beach, and although Hase is a little disappointed at the prospect of Kiryu and Yamagishi tagging along, it's still preferable to missing out on this trip entirely and so he does everything required to assemble the gang for a day trip.  With the quartet gathered, a pleasant train ride ensues, only for their arrival at the beach to be quite literally dampened by the onset of rain.

Still adamant that they need to make the most of their time, Saki leads the way in ignoring the rain and wind in favour of some typically beachside activities, sandcastles, beach balls and all, before logic prevails and sees them take to a nearby arcade for entertainment.  By the end of all this the sunshine has returned, making for a sunny end to proceedings before darkness brings the opportunity to bring out the fireworks.  A satisfying day is over, and even though both Saki and Shogo seem to be despairing in their own ways at the inept romance clearly bubbling between our two leads all is well... for now, at least, as a newcomer onto the scene as the episode ends seems to be a foreboding one.

After an episode like this, it's almost easy to forget the sense of drama earlier in the series, and one which it seems the show will probably return to - at least to some extent - over its remaining weeks.  Although the easy-going fare of this week's instalment wasn't particularly memorable it was still quite fun to watch, remains beautiful visually and also succeeded in bringing some sweet, satisfying moments to the table to boot.  Having built up this group of four friends so nicely, we're now perfectly poised for the cat about to jump into the midst of the pigeons, and the next week or two will surely see the feathers fly.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Love Live! School Idol Project Season 2 - Episode 8

The final preliminary round of Love Live is about to get underway, and with those competing interviewed in front of a live and television audience Honoka both impresses and surprises with a bold declaration of their intent to emerge victorious.

However, the question still remains as to what they can do to overcome their rivals and make their way to the competition proper. Even though time is running out, Nozomi suggests that the group write another song - a love song, in fact, much to Umi's concern.  The girls wax and wane on the idea of creating a brand-new song so close to the contest, but Eli in particular seems determined to use her sway to push Nozomi's idea forward - but just why is she so adamant about doing so?

When a Sunday get-together to brain storm (which ultimate results in the girls watching a romantic movie together, to differing responses) also proves fruitless but still seems Eli pushing her agenda, Maki's already roused suspicions only deepen, leading to her following Eli and Nozomi home and eventually confronting them about what they're up to.  The answer is simple enough - Nozomi in particular spent much of her childhood as something of a loner as she was constantly transferring schools, and it was only through Eli and her similar situation that she finally found a friend, in spite of knowing a number of other girls who she wished to become acquainted with... girls who serendipity has it went on to become μ's.  Thus, Nozomi's simple wish is for the group to write a song together, and with an understanding of this Maki and Eli both persuade her to come clean to the others about her desires to make that dream a reality.

This wasn't Love Live at its sharpest in terms of comedy, but it did finally give Nozomi some deserved exposure in what turned into a rather sweet episode that (not for the first time with this show) made good use of the bonds between the cast and their relationships as a single entity who are always willing to help one another out.  The result it's incredibly dramatic or surprising, but it is pleasant and capable of providing exactly the sort of light-hearted entertainment that I've been coming to Love Live for, so it's another case of mission accomplished for this week's instalment for the most part.

Monday, 26 May 2014

The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behaviour! - Episode 8

It's time for Usa to start his new job, working at a cafe while dressed as a student houseboy - an embarrassing role made somewhat better by Ritsu's rapt attention when he's wearing the costume in question, even if it is the clothes she's looking at rather than him.

If Usa was hoping to find himself working alongside some normal colleagues at the establishment, these hopes are quickly dashed - although both men are pleasant enough, one if so caught up in the character he plays at the cafe that he's unable to distinguish it from reality while the other is obsessed with his (and other's) "spirit guardians".  It's a phrase that is a blast from the past for Usa, and it's a past he's about to be reunited with as a group date invitation is suddenly cancelled as the good-looking girl heading up the female group wants nothing to do with Usa.  The reason?  She's actually the middle school girl who caused him to gain the nickname "Freak Show" thanks to her supernatural shenanigans.

Although a potential disaster has seemingly been averted by Usa being cast out of the group date, there's no escaping this fate as the group find themselves visiting the cafe while he's on shift there, bringing forth some awkward moments between him and Hayashi.  Even more unfortunately for him, everyone in the group is so obnoxious that he's eventually left as the only one who will serve them, which results in Usa being subjected to a tirade of abuse and general piss-taking.  Little does he know that the cavalry has just arrived, and amazingly it's Ritsu who steps up to take charge of things and rescue Usa from the worst of the degradation he's suffering from, before Sayaka and Mayumi step in to take care of the rest.  It's Ritsu's sacrifice that sticks in Usa's mind though, ensuring that he falls deeper still in love with his senior.

For a series that occasionally feels like it's getting stuck in a rut of leaning on the same character traits for its comedy, The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behaviour still manages to hit the mark at times in some surprising ways - watching Usa being turned into a figure of fun was uncomfortable and upsetting, but seeing Ritsu leave behind her quiet persona to rescue him was utterly heart-warming before the other girl's bitchiness added some comedy to the mix.  It's these moments that really drive my continued desire to watch the show - I continue to enjoy Usa and Ritsu's interactions, and at times the cast gels just perfectly to create some memorable moments.  If there were more of those moments I'd be talking this show up a whole lot more, admittedly, but a little goodness is better than none at all.

Mekakucity Actors - Episode 7

Having left a sickly Haruka at school under the assumption that he was merely being lazy last week, this week's Mekakucity Actors picks up the rest of Takane's story.

Needless to say, Takane is quick to beat herself up about Haruka being taken ill, especially given his history of such illnesses, and thus she's keen to avoid seeing him or being seen by him at the hospital.  She does, however, return to school to collect his belongings for him, leading to her bumping into Ayano where they talk about Shintaro for a while - a conversation which leads to Takane realising her own feelings towards Haruka.  It seems that this isn't really the moment to do so however, as the next thing Takane knows she collapses, only to find herself ensconced within the digital body of Ene.

At this point, the square is circled, with Ayano being the original "commander" of the Mekakushi-Dan, and Kido amongst others having visited Takane's school.  Any reverie about these shared experiences is interrupted by news of the accident which occurred right in front of Shintaro's eyes - news which sends most of the others dashing off to check up on those involved, leaving Ene left dangling just as they were about to reveal what seemed likely to be a similar "body transfer" experience of her own.  In the hope of knowing more, Ene attaches herself to Shuya, although it seems that he isn't too interested in giving her any easy answers, preferring instead to bring lost memories flooding back to her.

We're now seven episodes in, and I'm still no closer to getting any kind of grasp of what is going on in this show - the connections between members of the cast are now established, and we've had some hints as to a villain of the piece, but I still don't feel like I know why anything is happening, or more importantly why I should care about it as none of the characters succeed in being engaging.  If Mekakucity Actors can't build its narrative to some salient plot points in this many episodes, there seems to be little chance of it succeeding in doing so over the remainder of the series - a shame, given that there are some interesting ideas and nicely delivered moments that crop up within it from time to time.

Riddle Story of Devil - Episode 8

There aren't many challengers left in the "game" to assassinate Haru Ichinose - the trouble is, the remaining candidates are amongst the most dangerous.  Besides which, it seems that even Haru winning the game is a valid result in the eyes of those overseeing the latest iteration of the Black Class.

In something of a break from the norm for this show, our attention is split two ways this week - well, three ways if you want to count Banba's split personalities.  Alongside Banba, this week also allows us to delve into the history of the lightning-fast expert assassin that is Isuke Inukai, and how she was raised at the hands of (and indeed even named by) the assassin who killed her parents.

With a typhoon approaching (much to Nio's delight), the time seems ripe for somebody to strike as the weather front carrying it arrives - lo and behold, Haru's umbrella contains a notice of intent to assassinate her from Banba.  When Haru and Tokaku are attacked by Isuke however, they assume that she used someone else's name for her proclamation to try and gain an upper hand - a ploy which seems to have been somewhat successful, leaving Azuma injured.  Against such a skilled opponent, Tokaku barricades Haru away so that she can track down Inukai... a grave mistake, as there was no trickery involved in the note received by Ichinose.

Setting two assassins into action has certainly upped the ante and changed things up a little in this week's Riddle Story of Devil, and it's something that the series probably needed just to ensure things stay fresh. However, I do hope that this doesn't come at the extent of not prying into Banba's past a little more as it seems like a potentially fascinating one - perhaps we'll get to grips with that next week.  For now though, things are tantalisingly set up, and for the first time in a while it feels as if Haru is in genuine danger; something that the show could perhaps have managed to produce more often to give some added tension to proceedings.

Knights of Sidonia - Episode 7

If fighting and defeating a single Gauna wasn't tough enough, the prospect of fighting an entire hive of the things is a terrifying prospect - one which, thanks to the climax to last week's episode, we know didn't go well at all.

This week starts by filling in the blanks of exactly what happened to both Nagate and (perhaps more importantly) Hoshijiro - with orders in place to use explosive charges to sever the hive's tail, everything seemed to be in place for a successful operation until Tanikaze detonated his charges too early, ensuring that the plans failed.  Rather than a genuine mistake, this was in fact Kunato's doing to discredit his rival, and in the aftermath a number of lives were lost, including that of Hoshijiro as she went to the aid of a stunned and incapacitated Tanikaze.

Needless to say, our protagonist doesn't take this news well initially, and although Kunato is very keen to tell Nagate that Hoshijiro's blood is on his hands he's also equally quick to remind Tanikaze that he shouldn't tell anyone of Kunato's deception.  All of this needs to be put to one side as another Gauna threat emerges however, with Midorikawa taking the Commanding Officer's role as the Sidonia destroys a gas planet correctly suspected of harboring Gauna which escaped during the previous sortie.  These Gauna look disturbingly familiar however, which may make for difficult times ahead for those about to face them.

Having delivered a jaw-dropping cliffhanger last week, it was going to be tough for this episode of Knights of Sidonia to follow it up, and so it proved to some extent as we could already piece together what had transpired in the sortie to destroy the Gauna hive without actually seeing it.  Having said that, there was certainly some emotional impact to be had from actually watching those events play out in the way that they did in this episode, which was followed by some more nice moments of world and character building before launching us into yet further space-faring action - something I'm looking forward to next week, as it still seems to be what the show does best in both narrative and animation terms.

Nisekoi - Episode 20 (Completed)

Kosaki's ankle injury has put the class performance of Remoe and Juliet in peril - desperate times call for desperate measures, and having managed to uneasily rebuild bridges with Kirisaki it's she who takes on the leading role as Juliet herself.

Things start swimmingly too - despite having not learned the script, Chitoge is rolling off lines like a pro... for about thirty seconds, anyway.  A request for "Romeo's" help in picking up these forgotten lines soon turns into an unintentional comedy skit as the two end up quarreling on-stage - much to the delight of the audience - and this reaction leads to Maiko turning the whole production into a harem romantic comedy where every girl is chasing after Romeo (sounds familiar...), leaving the cast to ad lib their lines.  By the end of it all Claude is trying to stab Raku and the whole set comes toppling down to make for a spectacular finale before Romeo and Juliet finally manage to deliver some iconic lines to close things off.

In the aftermath of all of this, Kirisaki is one decidedly happy girl having come to terms with her feelings and reconciled things with Ichijou, but the man himself still feels the need to try and cheer up Onodera (albeit after a nudge from Ruri) given how much her place as Juliet had meant to her, going to some lengths to allow her to at least partially fulfill her dream.  And so they all lived happily ever after, or something...

Having talked about how predictable much of Nisekoi has been, it was a lot of fun to see it finishing things off by tearing up the script and having some fun with its school play - it was utterly silly but it reveled in the fact and delivered some great moments out of the back of it.  There was also something rather touching about Chitoge's story across these final episodes as she got in touch with her feelings, even if it did ensure those cheering on Onodera were left to take a back seat.  Still, this was an entertaining end to a hugely entertaining series - incredibly unoriginal but still an example of hitting all of the typical notes of a harem romantic comedy and playing every one of them just right with some aplomb.  We all sometimes complain about the lack of original and unique story ideas in certain genres of anime, but Nisekoi has delivered a handy reminder that sometimes originality can be over-rated, and sticking with a good, old-fashioned formula that works is the way to go.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Selector Infected WIXOSS - Episode 8

Another life has been ruined thanks to three defeats as a Selector, and Akari is determined to take her suffering out upon those she hold responsible - something she looks set to succeed in until events present Ruko and Yuzuki an opportunity to escape from her.

Even after seeing Akari's scarred face as a result of her wish going awry, Yuzuki refuses to back down from her desire to become an Eternal Girl and have her wish fulfilled, leaving Ruko to her own devices and promising that the next time they meet she'll be very different.  It's yet another hardship foist upon Ruko's shoulders, although at least she can find solace in her grandmother's forgiving demeanour.

As for Yuzuki, her aggressive tracking down of other Selectors has taken her to the bring of achieving her dream, and having found one last victim in a trading card store she accepts the laws of being a Selector to achieve her goal, with other events also conspiring to seemingly leave her perfectly placed to seduce and gain her brother's love.  But is this even the real Yuzuki any more?  A new pack of WIXOSS cards presented to Hitoe by her mother in the hope of cheering her up suggests that she may now be indisposed elsewhere...

After that slow start, Selector Infected WIXOSS really seems to be going from strength to strength in recent weeks - my suspicions about what could be revealed as the truth of becoming an Eternal Girl has now been confirmed, but that in itself isn't a bad thing, and the depressed feelings coming from Ruko and Hitoe were both palpable to the point of being affecting in this week's episode to give some emotional bite.  The biggest remaining question now seems to be how much of the reasoning behind what's going on will be revealed - will we get to see the wiring under the WIXOSS board, or will it leave all these goings-on unexplained under the auspices of "just because"?  I won't necessarily mind if they don't dig too deep into exposition on the game and why it exists, provided it manages to make good use of the head of steam and dramatic intent that it's built up over the past few episodes.

Nanana's Buried Treasure - Episode 7

Last week saw the Adventure Club tackle discovering another piece of the Nanana Collection, only to find that it had already been switched out for a mere stuffed toy.  But who would do such a thing?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the answer is that Yuugo is exactly the kind of person who would do such a thing, and indeed that's exactly what he did do, sneaking in to take the treasure before his "sister" Yukihime could get her hands on it.  This devilish deed is quickly unmasked by Tensai... because she happened to walk into the apartment just as he was confessing it to Nanana.  Yuugo may have won the day, but something is still bugging him, and it's Yukihime at the centre of his concerns.

In short, he really wants to reconcile with her after clearly angering her with his decision to leave Matsuri, and the artifact in his possession makes for some perfect collateral as part of a midnight rendezvous where he offers up a simple wager - if he can land a single blow on Yukihime she'll have to apologise, whereas if she wins she gets the treasure.  The trouble is, Yuugo also knows exactly how this part of the Nanana Collection operates, and uses it to gain the upper hand in this fight, in turn revealing a less than pleasant side to his personality before Yukihime's tears leads to a more considered discussion and something of a reconciliation, even if neither individual is willing to move from their current path.  With that done and dusted, everyone watches Star Driver, which automatically makes this a terrible episode.

Hyperbole aside (but seriously, Star Driver?!), this was a bit of a weak episode of Nanana's Buried Treasure. I still enjoy how I'm surprised every time Yuugo screws somebody else over even though I know his character by now, but his relationship with Yukihime doesn't really have enough punch to command an episode all of its own, and although it was slickly presented (this show still produces some great fight scenes) there just wasn't anything that resonated with me, or entertained me particularly for that matter.  Hopefully things will improve again now that this element of the show has been at least partially dealt with, which should make for some more engaging fare ahead with any luck.

Ping Pong the Animation - Episode 7

Now that Peco has had his moment of "enlightenment", he's off the snacks and onto a tough fitness regime at the hands of his makeshift coach from the local table tennis dojo.

Irritated though he is at being made to run up and down steps instead of pinging (and indeed ponging) a ball around, this much needed improvement of his fitness is merely the precursor to his introduction to a national coaching centre, where he's left in the hands of its staff to be worked night and day at improving his game - something which he proves to be naturally adept at.  On the flip-side of this, Smile is continuing to turn down the opportunity for specialist coaching, as he turns away yet another invitation from Kaio - this time via a visit from the establishment's director itself - to carry on working himself to the bone and beyond for whatever unspoken goal he has in mind.

One person we do learn a whole lot more about the motivations of however is Ryuichi Kazama, as we discover that he's driven by the fact that his family only gained respect thanks to their table tennis skills, leaving it as the only way to avoid being shunned by others, including his own grandfather.  Speaking of which, the success of this senior Kazama ties into Tsukimoto's coach Koizumi, as he reveals his past and how he threw away what could have been a successful table tennis career simply to avoid defeating an injured friend, only for him to go on to achieve greatness in his stead.

If nothing else, Ping Pong continues to up the ante in terms of its character development by the week - both Peco and Smile are turning into fascinating characters, and even Kazama has become more interesting on account of his back story.  There's more than enough potential swirling around the series that it feels ready to explode into something monumental at any moment, but for now I'm happy for it to bide its time before it does so.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

M3 the dark metal - Episode 5

Now that their island jaunt has revealed the psychic link which bonds the members of the Gargouille team - a link which is thought to be important to their ability in infiltrating the Lightless Realm - partnerships can be put in place for those with the strongest links.

While Akashi is left with a non-human partner in the form of the Argent, it's Emiru who really despairs as she's paired with the murderous and decidedly dysfunctional Heito - of course, to make things worse he also knows the secret of the Admonition which appears to be spreading throughout her body, which she continues to hide from all and sundry.

With negative emotions that surpass even Akashi's surging through her, all of this comes to a head as Gargouille are sent out on their first proper training foray into the Lightless Realm itself, with the Argent leading the way and both Heito and Emiru backing him up.  As soon as they come close, however, Emiru's body begins to react most strangely, while Heito's egging on of her primal fears leads to her producing an Admonition which attacks the others as things continue to spiral out of control.

While I remain interested in aspects of the story that M3 appears to be wanting to tell, its continuation to do so in such a ham-fisted way is frustrating my attempts to glean any real enjoyment out of it - Heito's over-the-top lunacy is comical more than it is disturbing, Emiru's place in proceedings feels equally forced and overblown, and the rest of the cast feel like cardboard cut-outs.  Throw in some of the least imaginative animation I've seen in quite some time, and you have yourself a recipe for mediocrity - for a series with so many dark or otherwise sinister elements, there's no real tension or feeling of impending dread; instead things just happen (often in ways which feel ill-fitting against the backdrop of the show's broader narrative), and it's really rather hard to care when they do.

No Game No Life - Episode 7

Now that Blank have Jibril of the Flugel race in their thrall, it seems that the time is right for them to plan their first move and prepare to take on the Warbeasts of the Eastern Federation.

At least, that's the plan, but the reality of this looks set to be rather difficult - for starters, even Jibril herself has been defeated by them in the past, and what's more their terms of the challenge she put forward was that her memories of the game they played would be wiped were she to lose.  Along with this, Sora is baffled that the Eastern Federation have taken so much land - surely nobody would challenge them given their strengths?

This thought turns to outright confusion once it's revealed who repeatedly challenged and lost to this rival race - none other than Steph's grandfather.  Sora can only assume that he must have been some kind of monumental idiot, much to Steph's disgust and upset - however, upon further examination of the land given up in these challenges, it seems that there was some method to his madness; a method to which Steph quite literally holds the key.

Even without the real draw of the twists and turns of an on-going challenge in this week's episode, I'm still really enjoying No Game No Life - the random and lazy nature of its references to Evangelion and Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei don't stop them from being funny, it leans into its fan service in some amusing ways ("I can't see anything because of all the steam", complains Jibril") and the entire endeavour has a rather infectious sense of fun but still knows when to cut to the chase and get (somewhat) serious.  It's colourful, feisty, fresh and funny, all of which is starting to suggest that No Game No Life may be one of my surprise favourite shows of the spring.

Monday, 19 May 2014

One Week Friends - Episode 7

It seems like things are moving on apace for Kaori - now that she's ditched her cold classroom persona, she's found herself at the centre of a burgeoning circle of friends as well as the focus of some mild-mannered gossip about her relationship with Hase.

Speaking of our protagonist, much as he's delighted to see his friend enjoying her new life every day he's also feeling a little left out as the times he once enjoyed alone with Fujimiya seem to have largely disappeared.  To this end, he requests her assistance in helping him study alone purely to enjoy a little time without anyone else around - a big ask given that said study session takes place in their classroom, leaving it prone to frequent interruptions.

This desire to spend more time with Fujimiya extends into concerns about the forthcoming summer holidays - how and when is Hase going to get to see Kaori?  It takes some prodding from Kiryu for him to actually up the ante and make plans with her, and when they meet for the first time over that summer Hase is greeted with a rather large surprise - even though it's a Monday, Kaori instantly recognises and remembers him.

Even into its second half as we now are, One Week Friends' gentle story-telling continues to be decidedly entertaining - its main cast of characters all complement one another well, and there's enough comedy and sense of purpose to everything that occurs to support its more saccharine moments and ultimately leave you with a smile on your face given that it's becoming increasingly hard not to root for the happiness of all its main players.  With an animation style that also supports these endeavours, One Week Friends has become something of a quiet, unassuming friend in itself - one that I very much look forward to checking in with every week.

Love Live! School Idol Project Season 2 - Episode 7

The worries just keep on coming for μ's. This week - Honoka got fat!

Well, alright, strictly speaking she got fat in that way that only anime characters can, that being by looking exactly the same and perfectly healthy while everyone else frets about how overweight they are.  For Honoka, this means that it's time to diet before that all-important final preliminary round of the Love Live - a mission into which Hanayo is also co-opted thanks to her love of gulping down massive bowls of rice. Speaking of which, it probably isn't the smartest idea to set the girl's regular jogging route to pass a restaurant offering up free bowls of rice...

As if trying to handle all of this isn't enough, Honoka's neglect of her student council duties also comes to a head, leading to an inadvertent error which leaves the school's art club with a much greater budget than they were projected to receive.  Needless to say, this is a genie that it's difficult for Honoka and friends to put back into its bottle, and it takes long hours of work and a significantly revised club budget allocation to finally win them over - work that proves hard enough to also resolve Honoka's weight issues.

Although its whole depiction of Honoka's "weight issue" felt a little weird, there were still some fun moments born from it in this week's Love Live, not least Honoka and Hanayo's unspoken dialogue outside of the restaurant which made for some imaginative comedy.  Beyond that, both of the episode's main plot points felt a little half-baked - the resolution of the weight storyline was inevitable, but the student council issues felt like they could have been given more time and more full realised.  Admittedly weighty narratives aren't what this series is here for, but it did leave the episode's plot feeling a little "phoned in", which in turn reduced its comic impact.

The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behaviour! - Episode 7

This week's The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behaviour begins with news that there's a molester in town... the real shock here however is that the molester in question isn't Shiro.

While the female residents of the complex discuss their past experiences with molesters and the best ways to counter them, thoughts eventually turns to Ritsu, with her inattention putting her at severe risk of being attacked.  In light of this, the decision is made that she really should stop reading while walking to and from school - an idea so abhorrent that she instead votes that Usa serves as her protector, which of course he doesn't mind one bit.  This state of alert is relaxed once news breaks that the offender has been caught, but perhaps what they have isn't the real culprit, leading to the other residents springing into action to protect Ritsu in their own inimitable style.

From here, the need for a night off from Sumiko sees the group heading to a restaurant owned by a friend of hers - a meal out that turns into an unexpected job offer for Usa, as the proprietor of the establishment is looking for someone who can handle the "unique" customers which visit the cafe.  It's a job requirement which Usa certainly fits the bill for, but also one that he's decidedly reluctant to take on - he has to deal with enough oddballs as it is, after all.  Usa remain adamant that he won't take on the job, but Ritsu's reaction to his work uniform quickly changes his mind.

In comedy terms, the last couple of episodes of The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behaviour have been a little flat now, only this week there wasn't really any notable story to back it up either.  We've seen numerous comedy series of recent years sag in the middle, and this might just be another one - it feels like we're caught in a place where the characters haven't developed enough to broaden the show's humour, leaving it reliant on jokes which are starting to get overused at this point.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Mekakucity Actors - Episode 6

Another episode sees Mekakucity Actors heading off in yet another different direction, this time treating us to the origins of Ene (or Takane, to use her real name) and Haruka.

As it happens, these two individuals are actually former classmates - although their personalities are chalk and cheese they seem to get on decidedly well with one another and spend a lot of time together; a set of circumstances which seems them become the go-to duo to put together something for their class' culture festival entry.  While their teacher has some grandiose ideas that money simply won't allow, Takane might just have a perfect solution that fits his idea of a shooting gallery but without the expense.

So it goes that Takane takes her place as the contestant for challengers to pit their wits against in a head-to-head point shooting video game - something she proves to be decidedly capable of.  Any surprise surrounding this dissipates as it becomes known that Takane also goes by the online handle of Ene, where she's the second best in the country in a major online shooter.  It's a secret that Takane doesn't want publicly known - or at least not by Haruka - but once the word is out and Haruka seems impressed by her abilities, she decides to accept and thrive upon her reputation, even though her successful facade almost slips against a couple of particularly unusual opponents.  As the episode ends however, it seems that Takane's happiness with Haruka is about to come to an abrupt end...

Halfway into the series, Mekakucity Actors continues to be something of a hot mess, as it continues to fill in bits of its back story and develop its characters in a haphazard and slapdash way that mostly detracts rather than adds to any positives its story may have.  In this particular case the episode's major problem was simply that it was rather dull, with nothing all that interesting to say or show about either of its characters and a relationship between them which it was hard to feel passionate about.  Perhaps all of the pieces can still fall into place during the second half of Mekakucity Actors, but its looking increasingly unlikely.

Knights of Sidonia - Episode 6

After their lonely little jaunt through space together, Tanikaze and Hoshijiro have now been rescued and returned to the relative comforts of the Sidonia.

Indeed, just three weeks after the incidents which claimed so many lives, the ship has returned almost entirely to normal, although there's no hiding the after-effects of the massive casualties suffered once you look (or smell) beneath the surface.  For his part, however, Nagate finds himself hailed as a hero by all and sundry, even if those higher in the chain of Sidonia's command clearly see him as nothing more than a pawn to be manipulated to their own ends.

Whether it's his status, abilities or usefulness to those superiors that see him promoted to a full pilot is open to debate, but with both Hoshijiro and - more importantly - Kunato promoted alongside him, it's time to let bygones be bygones in terms of the rivalry on show there.  This theory is quickly put to the test as some bathysphere shenanigans surrounding Tanikaze's "harem" are interrupted by the discovery of a whole hive of Gauna heading Sidonia's way, sending the new pilots out into battle.  What occurs there we don't yet know, as we join Nagate in awakening from its aftermath to find news of another victory for Sidonia, but at a devastating cost.

Once again, Knights of Sidonia manages to finish off what was otherwise a workmanlike episode with a huge cliffhanger to draw in the viewer and keep him coming back for next week's instalment - it certainly seems that the series works best when it comes to its perilous combat and how this affects the wider state of Sidonia's world, as the sometimes literal tug-of-war for Tanikaze's interest by much of the cast is far less remarkable and ill-equipped in narrative terms.  Still, I can't begrude it those elements too much when the show's wider story continues to be fascinating, and it certainly seems that next week is going to deliver some more explosive fare in those terms.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Nisekoi - Episode 19

Ichijou and Kirisaki seem like the perfect contenders to play Romeo and Juliet in their class play for the school festival, but after recent events it seems that Chitoge is in no mood to countenance such a proposition.

This leaves Onodera to take on this all-important role, much to Raku's excitement, while Tachibana is quick to vote herself in as understudy for that part.  As for Kirisaki, she gives everything to do with the production a wide berth, and more importantly she wants absolutely nothing to do with Ichijou, which continues to baffle him.

This ultimately comes to a head as Raku's attempts to find out what's bugging Chitoge only ends up with him spouting more less than endearing thoughts about how the two of them never really had anything in common anyway, which eventually lands him with a well-deserved and almighty slap - this fake romance is now well and truly off.  The show must go on however, and so preparations continue, only to be potentially ruined by a freak injury to Onodera and the illness of her understudy.  Is the play going to be cancelled?  Kosaki is mortified at the thought, but Raku has an idea forming in his brain... he know just the girl who he could ad-lib an acted-out love story with.

It's certainly nice to see a little darkness breaking through the usual mirth and merry-making of Nisekoi for a little while, as it adds a little extra frisson to proceedings and shakes things up enough to allow it to break from the norm - it's also about time Raku got some come-uppance for his slagging off of Chitoge too, which could actually allow for a little more character development, albeit a little late in the series.  This perhaps didn't make for the kind of memorable comedy that the show has been so good at, but a change can do you good sometimes and I'd argue that's true in Nisekoi's case.

Riddle Story of Devil - Episode 7

With just seven members of the Black Class remaining, those left behind are perhaps in need of a pick me up - and what better place to have one than at the school's private pool?  Everything is in place here for a day of fun and frolics - stunning facilities, a large selections of swimsuits... oh, and a bomb strapped around Haru's neck.

This unexpected "gift" comes courtesy of Suzu Shuto, who has decided to take the assassination "game" playing out around Ichinose rather literally by turning it into an actual game, hiding four playing cards around the pool area complete with cryptic clues with the promise of those cards offering up the four-digit PIN required to deactivate the bomb and remove it from around Haru's neck.

While the other girls mostly watch on with a certain sense of amusement, it's up to Azuma and Haru to decipher the clues and assemble the cards which will save Haru's life - however, the location of the final card means that the only way to access it is to forsake Azuma's life instead, leaving those concerned with something of a dilemma before the issue ultimately resolves itself once it becomes clear that three cards is enough to guess the PIN in question.

All of this made for another pretty fun episode of Riddle Story of Devil, but one that could have done with a bit more time to breathe in places - things moved on so quickly out of necessity that there was no time to luxuriate in the tension or drama of trying to save Haru's life, which perhaps lessened some of its impact somewhat.  That aside, this episode worked well enough at delivering everything it intended to, while also presenting an all-important reminder about password security and social engineering.  That was the real goal of the episode after all, right?

Friday, 16 May 2014

Selector Infected WIXOSS - Episode 7

Confronted by Hitoe's mother as she desperately tries to fathom what has happened by her daughter, Ruko is plunged into a panicked sense of despair - just what exactly is she supposed to do, both with the information she holds and her place as a Selector?

Ruko's first thought is to turn to Yuzuki, but finds her unavailable - indeed, she's having her own issues, and having to chosen to fight for her wish despite knowing the risks she's now tracking down Selectors wherever she can find them to push them into battles.  In her anxious haze, Ruko ends up going looking for Akira, finding instead only Iona at the location for her latest modelling shoot.

Having learned the fate of Akira (or at least part of it), Ruko is all the more distraught, but most disturbing of all is Iona's suggestion that she now has a wish... a wish that mirrors Iona's own, that being purely and simply a desire to do battle against other Selectors.  Try as she might to deny it, against Tama's cries of frustration and the goading of Iona and her own LRIG, Ruko eventually caves and admits that yes, she does want to battle.  What a pitched battle it is too, with the initially reluctant Ruko soon seeing her worries dissolve into pure joy at the intense conflict she's engaged in.  It seems that both Ruko and Yuzuki are unsure what to do about the truth of their natures that has confronted them, but there's little time to dwell upon it as it seems that Akira has requested their presence.

After some early doubts about this series, Selector Infected WIXOSS continues to head in a decidedly interesting direction, with this week's episode further maneuvering Ruko into a position where her knowledge and desires are in direct conflict - a situation not so dissimilar from Yuzuki's, albeit with different end goals.  I also remain fascinated by the continued presence of defeated Selectors like Hitoe and now Akira in the show, leaving me pondering whether they'll be put to further use moving forward.  Either way, the series is becoming increasingly interesting and engaging by the week (and that's before we even mention Tama with a rocket launcher), so I can only hope that it continues in that vein over the coming weeks.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Nanana's Buried Treasure - Episode 6

Now that Yuugo's financial concerns have been lifted (temporarily at least), he can look forward to joining the rest of the Adventure Club's members on their busman's holiday to a hot springs resort which also happens to be the purported location of another item from the Nanana Collection.

Upon arrival, Yuugo finds himself sharing the hotel with one very familiar face from outside of the club, while his insistence upon having a room to himself on account of his snoring also seems a little suspicious - suspicions that are confirmed (to the viewer at least) when he awakens to meet the others the following morning looking like the sort of tired man who had been out much of the night on other business.

Nonetheless, Yuugo is ready to tackle the puzzle proffered them by the home of this latest treasure, even if Isshin has left some of his supposed comrades in the cold to make an early bid for the item himself.  Although the puzzle to reach this piece of the Nanana Collection seems relatively simple it still has its challenges - challenges which don't seem to match the treasure that they end up with.  When the item in question is quickly stolen, it doesn't take long for Tensai to unmask the thief, but all appears to be naught anyhow as the item is revealed to be nothing more than a fake.

This wasn't a particularly strong episode of Nanana's Buried Treasure, but it did have its fun moments - Yuugo's place as an anti-hero still somehow manages to be surprising even though it's now well established, and there was a smattering of well-placed moments of comedy to boot.  Coupled with its pleasing aesthetic and mixing of narrative elements in a casual but enjoyable way, there remains a fair amount of entertainment value to be had which arguably transcends the actual content of the series when taken as a whole, which is exactly what keeps me coming back for more like some particularly moreish pudding.

Ping Pong the Animation - Episode 6

While many are getting excited about the movie adaptation of Attack on Robot (no idea what popular franchise that might be aping...), Ping Pong's very own table tennis robot is continuing down his single-minded path.

In reality, it would probably be unrealistic to compare Smile to a robot - your average mechanical man probably wouldn't treat his team-mates like dirt while he went about his business, whereas Smile views the fellow members of the table tennis club as either an irritation or a slave to his requirements.  Given his complaints about the equipment, the club members and anything else that pops into his head, the question of why he's yet to join Kaio looms ever larger as it seems to offer everything that he wants and needs as he vies to constantly improve in his abilities.

All of this is really just a precursor to the wider view that this week's episode takes on those with the will and dedication to master their skills and craft, and those who just want to go with the flow - while Peco (and others like him) spend their Christmas Eve on dates, getting drunk and "living life to the full", Kazama and Smile lock themselves away to continue their endless cycle of training.  In the midst of all of this is Kong, who seems to have rebuilt himself at the leader of the club he's in charge of, fitting perfectly into a role where those around him seem to appreciate him.  Perhaps, however, Peco's care-free attitude is about to come to an end as circumstances force him to realise what he really wants to do with his life.

This may not have been Ping Pong at its strongest when it comes to engaging the viewer, but it still did a pretty good job of building its characters and story for the most part - Peco's "revelation" could maybe have been provided in a more unique way than the old "life flashing before his eyes" trick, but it's moved the story forward in a tantalising way that bodes well for future episodes while also giving it more scope beyond simply trying to figure out what drives Smile.  Its animation is increasingly looking more bad than stylish at the moment, but as long as it's capable of relating what remains an interesting story of sporting ambition (or, on occasion, the lack thereof) then it's fine by me.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

M3 the dark metal - Episode 4

Recent events are understandably of great concern to the powers that be as the situation surrounding the Corpses appears to be spiraling out of control - a situation that has left them conceding to governmental wishes in how these higher-ups run their project.

Meanwhile, Gargouille's training continues apace, with the group dropped at disparate locations around a deserted island without any real means of navigation, and tasked with meeting up and working together on a mock investigation as a team - a team which includes Heito, which is understandably an uncomfortable prospect for all concerned.

While all and sundry try to figure out their state of play, battle on despite feeling ill (in Emiru's case) or simply panic and flail around doing nothing, as time passes all of the group find themselves enveloped by strange memories, recollections and an almost magnetic bond to one another that gives them an understanding of exactly where they should meet.  Could it be that they've met before?  It seems that even Heito shares these feelings, although it's hard to tell when he seems to be so mired in insanity... it also seems that he's looking for something; something which Emiru appears to possess.

I will give M3 some kudos for building up some interesting story elements this week (even if the prior relationship between the members of the cast was foreshadowed so heavily that it had zero surprise value at this point) - I just wish it could be a little less boring and more dynamic about delivering it.  At present, none of the characters have any redeeming features, and even Heito's insanity is overplayed in a manner which is neither fun nor interesting - perhaps these issues will be assuaged as M3 builds further upon its narrative, but at this exact moment it isn't doing itself any favours.

No Game No Life - Episode 6

It might be said that fortune favours the brave, but it also seems to favour the serendipitous in this week's No Game No Life - no sooner has Sora bemoaned the lack of information at his disposal about Disboard's various other races, so he finds a mobile library landing on his doorstep.

That the owner of this library is part of a much-feared and murderous race is of no consequent to Blank's not-so dynamic duo, not least because the world's rules mean that they can't simply murder their opponents any more.  Thus, it's going to take a game to decide this future's library, with Sora offering its guardian Jibril access to a library of his own (courtesy of his iPad) as collateral.  Once Jibril has verified that Sora is indeed not of this world and thus holds an immeasurable amount of new information which she and her race desires, the game is on.  What game you ask?

Why, none other than shiritori.  Of course, this is no ordinary game, but rather "materialisation shiritori", where whatever word or words you choose to use in the game will materialise or, if they already exist in the room, vanish without a trace.  Never one to hang about, the game escalates from the very start with Sora calling up a hydrogen bomb, and as things progress our cast end up with no sexual organs, nipples or clothes... most fortunate for a show that still trades on fan service when it wishes.  Just as the game begins to run out of steam, the true extent of Sora's plan suddenly looms into view - a plan that will happily not only dismantle the planet from beneath their feet, but eventually the entire fabric of the universe itself.

I can forgive No Game No Life all of its titillating silliness (especially when it's woven so expertly into the fabric of the story at hand), when it plays its cards as beautifully as this week's episode - after having some fun with the game residing at its heart, it suddenly ramps things up in a thrillingly grandiose way that left me with a grin plastered upon my face as it presented exactly the kind of twisting, turning and overblown fare that I wanted from the series when it started.  Perhaps if I was a physicist I'd be less impressed, but I'm not so I absolutely lapped up the direction the episode took, and if it can continue in this direction then I'll be one happy bunny.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Love Live! School Idol Project Season 2 - Episode 6

The work never ends for μ's, and after last week's fashion show this week sees the group taking on an appearance at a Halloween themed event... what's more, it's a televised event in which A-RISE will also be participating.

Although this prospect initially fills the girl with confidence, it quickly turns to worry as the first day of the event begins - after a stuff introduction in front of a live audience and the TV cameras by a trio of μ's finest, A-RISE steal the show merely by appearing via a television link.  It's clear that something needs to change to give our school idols more "impact", but what?

Needless to say, what follows is a number of attempts for the girls to reinvent themselves, be it by dressing themselves up as representatives of various school clubs (or, failing that, fruit), taking on one another's character traits to mix things up a little, or going down the rock 'n' roll route and dressing like Kiss.  When all of these ideas fall flat, so does the girls morale... however, perhaps all they really need to do is be themselves and just keep on having fun?

Much like last week's effort, this wasn't Love Live at its most memorable but it was still pretty fun, giving its cast the opportunity to goof around for an entire episode (which admittedly happens every week, but in a slightly more surreal and free-form fashion here) and even its voice cast to have a little fun playing one another's characters.  As per usual, this makes for a colourful and entertaining way to while away an evening after a long day, and in those terms alone it hits the spot perfectly, even if I did hope they were going to cover Thriller at the end...

Monday, 12 May 2014

Mekakucity Actors - Episode 5

Another episode of Mekakucity Actors means that we shift perspective once again this week, as our focus returns to Shintaro Kisaragi as he awakens following the whole kidnapping incident at the shopping centre.

Unsure of where he is when he wakes up, and not exactly assisted by his smartphone app-cum-AI Ene, Shintaro doesn't exactly make the best first impression in front of his sister's new buddies - nonetheless, they seem to take to him well enough on account of his powers, and also seem plenty interested in what Ene can bring to their collective to boot.  Thus, Shintaro is offered a place within the Mekakushi-Dan... however, it seems that he'd rather do a runner to avoid this prospect of human contact, even if it means leaving Ene behind.

Giving up on him for the time being under Momo's assertions that he'll return soon enough judging by how happy he seemed at the invitation, the rest of the gang head off to a nearby amusement park, although not before making plans to stop off at the gravestone of their former commander and the group's founder, who committed suicide some two years previously.  Meanwhile, Shintaro finds himself running into yet another oddball in the form of a seemingly lost and confused Konoha, who ends up showing a little of what he's capable of as we witness things surrounding Hibiya taking an unexpected turn.

Following on from last week's episode, it really feels as if Mekakucity Actors has lost its way - its sprawling story of interconnected individuals isn't a bad idea (witness Durarara's ability to weave a similar narrative web), and its focus on the interactions between characters could also be a valuable way to tell its tales (a la Monogatari), but the trouble is that this show simply isn't any good at the things that either of those examples proved to be so delightful at leveraging.  There are certainly some interesting things going on within the show's narrative, but it takes so long to reach them via tortuous diversions (and its ever-present low-grade animation quality) that it's hard to care by the time they arrive, and most of the witty repartee between the cast has proven to be anything but for the most part.  There's still time for Mekakucity Actors to pull itself together and weave its elements into a coherent whole, but after showing some promise it seems to be heading in entirely the wrong direction again.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

One Week Friends - Episode 6

Our little group of titular "one week friends" (or almost friends, in Shogo's case) are now fully formed, but it's other issues that are the front of some of their minds in this week's episode.

At least, this is the case for Hase and Saki, both of whom have failed miserably in a recent maths test and are going to have to sit a make-up test to... well, make up for it.  Given their poor performance, it's clear that they both need someone with decidedly more intellect than they to assist - enter Kaori as their saviour.  Surprisingly, Fujimiya not only agrees to help them out, but she also suggests that they should hold a study session at her house - a prospect that both terrifies and excites our protagonist, although this is nothing compared to how flustered Kaori's mother is at the sudden appearance of her daughter's precious friends.

By the end of their visit however, Kaori and Kiryu have grown closer (well, perhaps a little, anyway), and Kaori's mother has composed herself enough to leave Hase a note asking to meet her after school the next day.  Just what does she have to say to Hase in private?  The answer, of course, is that she wants to talk about Kaori's memory issue, explaining how it occurred in the aftermath of a road accident that left her with no brain damage and little more than a concussion, yet somehow it still led the way to the memory issues surrounding any friends that exists to this day.  It seems that Kaori herself is holding onto some kind of deep-seated psychological issue, which perhaps holds hope for a resolution in the future.

Now that Fujiimiya has a collection of good friends and associates around her and most of her barriers have been lowered, One Week Friends feels a little less "sharp" as a result - the first half of this episode was more like a sweet and simple slice of life show, which only gave way to more serious matter in the second, albeit in a thoroughly predictable way (I'd love to see the numbers for road traffic accidents in Japan, because if anime is anything to go by there sure is a lot of them!)  Neither of these issues are major enough to inherently dampen down the fact that this series remains enjoyable and has a cast you can't help but root for, but I do wonder whether its second half will struggle to capture the same subtle yet palpable drama and emotion of its early episodes.

The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behaviour! - Episode 6

In a list of things that you wouldn't put past Shiro, seducing a little girl would certainly be amongst them, and disturbingly it seems as if he's done just that as this week's The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behaviour begins.

Rewind a little and we find out that said little girl's confession of love originates from a slightly less disturbing place - having rescued a lost wallet on the street and handed it into the police, Shiro is met by a mother and her daughter to thank him for his kindness.  The girl in question, Chizuru, takes rather a shine to Shiro - or more importantly the Pythagoras device he's currently building using spare bamboo.  As the days pass, Chizuru helps Shiro with his project, ultimately leading to that awkward confession.

Rather than allow this worrying state of affairs continue, Mayumi decides to step in to dissuade this little girl, or at least convince her to reconsider - it seems that Chizuru has no intention of reneging on her interest in Shiro however, and gentle persuasion turns into a full-on argument that ends with Mayumi making the little girl cry.  In light of this, it's hardly surprising that Chizuru doesn't turn up over the coming days, but when she goes missing completely it becomes clear that this innocent exchange has hit a rather more raw nerve that simply the girl's interest in Shiro.

This wasn't really The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behaviour at its best in terms of its comedy, but the shift in its story-telling was at least interesting if not entirely successfully - the episode had its funny moments, and its tale was simple but reasonably engaging to keep the series ticking over without providing anything all that memorable or spectacular... not that this is entirely a bad thing for a comedy series that is never going to be hilarious week in, week out.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Nisekoi - Episode 18

Amazingly, we haven't had a beach episode in Nisekoi yet.  So, here's Nisekoi's beach episode for you.

After getting at least some of its inevitable fascination with the female bosom out of the way, it's Kirisaki who takes much of the focus of this week's episode, as she continues to ponder that misunderstood proposal from Raku last week - a train of thought that leaves her getting more and more flustered, to the point where even Onodera is noticing that something is up with her friend.  The again, perhaps she should pay some more attention to her own thoughts, as she ends up blurting out to Ichijou that she wants to kiss him while they're alone on the jetty together...

...but, of course, Raku has dozed off and missed the whole thing.  Even after overhearing this, Chitoge convinces herself that she simply misheard Kosaki and resumes worrying about her own feelings as she works herself up into such a lather that she can't even hang out in the vicinity of Ichijou.  This in turn leads to Raku heading off to find her and Kirisaki not so subtly asking whether a relationship between the two of them could work.  Subtle or not, Ichijou's idiocy leaves him spouting off about how there's no way he'd have any interest in her, and so begins a cold war between the pretend couple.  Oops...

Inevitable though its eventual appearance was, some aspects of this week's beach instalment felt a little shoe-horned in, leaving the first half of the episode feeling rather week until it got to grips with its main relationships and decided to shake them up a bit... or rather, it pretended to in Onodera's case before turning it into a feint in a predictable but entertaining way.  However, there was no messing with the change in Ichijou and Kirisaki's relationship, which I hope is something that the show will lean into in its final couple of episodes, as it clearly has the potential to offer up something decidedly different than the usual expected (if enjoyable) fare to bring Nisekoi to a strong ending (although surely one which will decide nothing).

Riddle Story of Devil - Episode 6

Another weeks mean more assassination attempts targeted at Ichinose, although this time around she never finds herself moving beyond the periphery of events which spiral out of control elsewhere.

At the centre of matters this time around are Hitsugi Kirigaya and Chitaru Namatame, a pair of roommates from the Black Class who have a relationship which almost seems to resemble that of a daughter and mother, with diminutive Kirigaya finding herself constantly looked after as if she were a child.  Of course, given their positions neither of them are angels, although it seems that Chitaru has a rather different target than the other assassins, as she treads a path of vengeance against a killer known as "Angel's Trumpet", who acts by poisoning their victims.

With the build-up to the school festival continue, it doesn't take us long to find out the true face behind Ange's Trumpet, and it isn;'t too surprising to learn that the culprit is Hitsugi, as she takes out Shiena Kenmochi the second she reveals her intent to kill Haru so that Kirigaya herself can step in and claim victory in this chilling game.  Her goal is to use the class production of Romeo & Juliet as a cover to poison Ichinose, but once Azuma discovers her plan it's quickly thwarted, and Namatame's misunderstanding about the individual responsible eventually leads to a climax worthy of Shakespeare's best-known work itself.

This week's episode of Riddle Story of Devil couldn't claim to boast an original plot, nor could it possibly hope to surprise with the way that plot developed (and to be fair it didn't even try to traverse this path, instead foreshadowing everything clearly in advance), yet this was still the most emotionally resonant episode of the series yet - its final scenes were played out very well indeed to provide impact, while turning the plot away from Haru for the most part also left this instalment feeling fresh and significantly different from the show's formula up to this point.  It isn't the kind of thing the series can hope to pull off every week (especially given that offing three characters at a time isn't practical), but it was an enjoyable change of pace and tone in places that was most welcome and has renewed my enthusiasm for the show as a result.

Knights of Sidonia - Episode 5

Tanikaze has cemented his place as a hero of Sidonia by defeating the Gauna that threatened to tear the craft apart were it to reach their location - but will he get to enjoy the fruits of this feat?

Although his machine is running out of juice and ignoring the orders of his commanding officer, Tanikaze refuses to return to the Sidonia, instead pursuing the rescue of Hoshijiro from her escape pod even though it takes him outside of the "point of no return" from which he won't be able to return home unaided.  Unfazed by this and the complete exhaustion of his Frame's supply of Hyggs Particles, Nagate effects a successful rescue of Hoshijiro and brings her back to his Frame.

From here, all they can do is play the waiting game in the hope of rescue or the Sidonia turning around to retrieve them - something which looks ever-more unlikely as the days pass and supplies of food and water dwindle (which is particularly troublesome for Nagate given his inability to photosynthesize), and leading to some desperate measures just to keep the pair alive.  Of course, given his brave actions some parties will do anything to ensure Tanikaze's survival, and better late than never help soon arrives.

Although admittedly this week's Knights of Sidonia was a little light on content in the grand scheme of things (aside from some ill-placed "exposition as training/lesson" scenes which felt at odds with what was going on elsewhere and were delvered too dryly to be interesting), its main story worked wonderfully well as a standalone tale in its own right - watching Tanikaze and Hoshijiro trying to survive and wait for their rescue was an atmospheric and subtly enjoyable affair that managed to avoid over-wrought drama and crisis for a more measured depiction of its two seemingly abandoned characters.  The lack of movement and facial characterisation required also served the episode's animation in good stead, allowing the show's CG to do what it needed to do in a competent manner all the way through to its feel-good ending.  Knights of Sidonia is certainly on the up and up at present, and hopefully it can keep that monentum now that all of its immediate crises have been resolved.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Selector Infected WIXOSS - Episode 6

After taking almost half of the series, last week finally saw Selector Infected WIXOSS shows its hand - not that its revelation about the fate of those who lose three Selector battles seems to bother Ruko, who has revenge on her mind as a battle against Akira begins.

If Akira thinks that she's going to be able to defeat Ruko as easily as she did Hitoe however, she soon finds herself to be badly mistaken - none of her usual tactics work against her opponent, and what's more the fact that Ruko is playing with no ultimate wish in mind means that she can't be goaded or upset by Akira's mind games.  This leaves her vulnerable to Ruko's counter, and before we know it Akira has tasted defeat, while her absence from her modelling job sees her on the brink of being kicked out while her rival Iona - the very girl who Akira's wish is to see fail - goes from strength to strength.

Meanwhile, times are hard for all three of the girls who once considered themselves as friends - Hitoe is inevitably in a mess as a result of her lost status as a Selector, much to the consternation of her mother; Yuzuki is further teased about being too close to her brother by girls who are interested in him, leaving her torn between knowing the terrible truth of Selector battles and using that exact process as a way of having her wish granted; and Ruko also finds herself on uncertain ground, torn between (and worried by) her love of Selector battles set against the horrors defeating an opponent can unleash upon them.  Things certainly don't look as if they're going to get brighter any time soon either, so what are these girls to do?

Now that the curtain has been pulled back on the true nature of WIXOSS' Selector battles, we can finally get into the real meat of this series, and it's certainly tastier than anything it had served up prior to this point.  Above all else I'm still enjoying the show's relentlessly dark atmosphere, it knows how to make the most of its sound design, locations and colour (or absence of it) to paint a gloomy world around its main characters as they all fall apart in some shape or form.  Beyond this, it's also actually building some interesting character-driven stories to boot - I assumed Hitoe would be kicked to the curb by the show but it continues to follow her after the disaster which has befallen her (even keeping her parents involved, which is relatively unique for this kind of show), Ruko continues to be a blank slate but one who has now been interestingly positioned, and Yuzuki's incest story beat is being handled smartly and sensitively to provide perhaps the most compelling tale of the bunch.  If it continues in this manner, then the second half of Selector Infected WIXOSS could be fascinating indeed.