Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Random Thoughts for Tuesday...

Kanon remake by Kyoto Animation:
At first I thought this was an early April Fool's joke but no, it's real and it's coming out this fall. The original Kanon anime had some poor character designs and the visuals weren't stellar but it did a great job with the story and the atmosphere. Ayu's arc in Kanon was really well done, and Mai and Makoto's arcs were emotional too. Air, on the other hand, was really well done for the main characters' arcs but the side characters stories were so rushed I can't remember their names. Since I loved the original Kanon it's going to be hard to top but if anyone can do it Kyoto Animation can.
I'm really hoping for a 24-26 episode series--Canvas 2, Shuffle, and Da Capo all got that length so I think Kanon deserves the same treatment. If it's 24 episodes, some of the characters who didn't get a lot of screentime in the original Kanon could really get a chance to shine and it wouldn't feel rushed. If the remake is only 13 episodes, though, I think it'll be hard to improve on the original, other than visually.

Munto:
Finally got this through Netflix--as expected from Kyoto Animation the visuals for this are awesome, and the character designs aren't bad either, even if Munto looks like he needs to eat a cheeseburger or something. Kings are supposed to be fat like Henry VIII, not anorexic. Munto was an interesting story, although the whole thing with Suzume and Kazuya getting "married" by swimming across a river together kind of made me go WTF. The end seemed anticlimactic, but I think given how short (50 minutes) this was, they just got a little ambitious with the amount of story they were trying to cram into that timeframe. Munto 2 comes out on R1 DVD in a couple weeks, and it's longer this time, so I'm looking forward to seeing where they go from here.

Canvas 2:
I dropped this after episode 6 originally, but I picked it back up now that I read spoilers for the twist at the end. This isn't going to dethrone Da Capo or Kanon as what I'd call the best game-to-anime conversions, but it's entertaining, especially since now I know the one I'm rooting for "wins" ^_^

Pretty Cure Splash Star:
I was never a huge fan of the original Pretty Cure--it does have some innovative additions to the genre but the monster-of-the-week format, the exact same signature attack beating the bad guys every single time, and the merchandising tie-ins just were a little too much for me to watch this week in and week out. Splash Star is...well, almost exactly the same as the original, no better and no worse so far. They decided to change the setting and the characters, but essentially retell the same story, a decision that I'm sure pissed off a lot of Precure fans. Splash Star's characters are slightly different but they look enough like the original heroines to make me wonder if the character designer has any creativity at all. They could have at least given the two leads different hair color than their predecessors. The bad guy looks like a walking piece of asparagus, but the bad guys in the original were pretty comical and useless too.
Someday I'll find a mahou shoujo series that stacks up well against Cardcaptor Sakura, where Sakura actually had to think about what attack to use, but Splash Star isn't it. Having said that, it's still entertaining and I'm glad someone's subbing it, since this is the kind of series that usually gets unsubbed or dropped after a few episodes.

Shinibara (Shinigami no Ballad):
Episode 4 was another good, self-contained story, and we got to see a little more interplay between Momo and Daniel, who haven't gotten as much screentime overall as I would have expected at first. This continues to be a fun series to watch, the pacing and atmosphere really showing it's by the team that did Zettai Shonen. Plus this has motivated me to try to make french toast, we have vanilla extract in the kitchen and from past experience anything with vanilla added to it is good (except beer).

Thursday, March 23, 2006

In the Wake of the Week ~ End of Winter Edition

"Sometimes I have this dream...about a girl with wings up in the air..."

This week's random thoughts on anime:

- Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu (not even out yet; airs starting April 3rd) - This is the show I'm looking forward to the most for spring--which is kind of like the Sports Illustrated curse, because invariably the show I look forward to the most isn't the best and some other show ends up being #1. But the premise is interesting, what little I can find of it on The Internet--it's about a girl who has the power to change the world to be the way she wants it to be, although she doesn't realize this herself, and the guy who gets dragged along and probably has to clean up the mess. It's animated by Kyoto Animation, and since they did a great job with Air and Inu Yasha, I'm looking forward to seeing what they do with this.

- Fate/Stay Night (through ep 11) - This wasn't something I thought would be all that good, but I've been enjoying it--the harem-like scenes are hilarious, and the fight scenes are pretty good too. Shirou owns your average harem lead, I can't picture him pulling a Tenchi and whining about how he can't possibly choose one of the girls because that would require making a decision and he might, like, hurt someone's feelings or something. Shirou would so kick Tenchi or Keiichi's asses, but that's another rant. I remember an English teacher long ago saying that completely evil characters were a sign of bad writing because in real life bad guys are more complex than that, and that applies to Shinji's character to some extent. The guy doesn't care about killing everyone in school and kicks Fuji-nee in the face when she asks for help? Whatever death he gets in the end, it can't be painful enough.

- Magikano (through ep 10) - Damn, this show is funny. I don't think I've ever seen a series use facefaults and SD better than this does. The evil laughter in the background when Ayumi is scheming is just brilliant. Maika turning into a monster and nearly leveling the house when she catches Ayumi in a compromising position with Haruo--also brilliant. This is a series I'll be genuinely sad when it's over--the world can always use more comedies, especially with memory-erasing giant hammers.

- Kage Kara Mamoru (through ep 9) - I really wish this had a bigger animation budget, but it's still funny. Ep 9 goes the furthest out there yet, with aliens arriving and abducting Yuuna. Aliens seem a little out of place in a show about ninjas, but it's all good. Based on an analysis of Yuuna, you'd think the aliens would see humans as a bunch of pushovers with a collective IQ well below room temperature. Only a few episodes left--I hope they give us the Yuuna x Mamoru ending they've been telegraphing, and don't just leave it open ended.

- Karin (ep 17) - So they introduce Elda, give her a really interesting backstory, she kicks the story up a notch, and now BAM she's gone. Next week we'll probably be back to Weiner-kun sending the image of gaijin in Japan back 100 years. If Weiner is Al's descendant, which is kind of implied by Elda's reaction to his last name, Al's got to be rolling over in his grave.

- Rec (through ep 6) - Awesome. Aka is incredibly kawaii, and the story about her chasing her dream job, something few adults get to do, is pretty cool too. The only thing I hate is the short length and the weird scene transitions (where I'm assuming they're running ads). This deserves a lot more than nine half-length episodes, let's hope Aka-chan's popular enough we get to see a full-length series out of this.

- Shinibara (Shinigami no Ballad) (through ep 3) - Episode 1 was depressing, but good--episodes 2 and 3 were even better though. I thought for sure this was going to be tragic/untimely-death-an-episode, but I'm relieved to see it's more than that. Hell, I just re-watched episode 10 of Kanon and I don't need to go through more Kleenex. Episode 3 was probably my favorite so far, despite her name Tomato is teramoe, and the story for the episode was pretty good too. The countryside really gave it that Zettai Shonen-like feeling. Well, that and all the camera shots from the knee down.

- Burn Up Scramble (through ep 8) - I know, why am I watching a series like this, with sorry-ass animation that looks like it was drawn by a five year old. I'm not sure--this is really pretty awful. I'm not saying it's as bad as some of the gems of US network television (at least there's no laugh track), but watching this I couldn't help but thinking how You're Under Arrest and Dirty Pair did this so much better. Burn Up Scramble is about female cops in the near future with gravity defying breasts and a penchant for mayhem, and while it's supposed to be funny, a lot of it just falls flat for me. Having said that the scene where Maya, the somewhat gothic sniper on the team, is explaining how all her guns have names and no one else is allowed to touch them was kind of funny.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Ph34r the Spring Season...

I know, yesterday was the first day of spring, but the spring anime season is what's really important, and sadly it's still a few more days away. Haven't posted in a while, so thought I'd jump on The Bandwagon and post which series this spring I'm looking forward to the most. And no, Yuuma and Yuuna have nothing to do with this spring's anime, but an anime blog without shameless fanservice is just...well, an anime blog. If you're looking for a complete list of the 6,000 new series airing this spring, AndrewLB's wiki delivers.

Series I'm looking forward to the most and wish I could see RIGHT NOW:

Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu - I'll be honest, everything I know about this series I got from a thread on AnimeSuki, and even that's not very much. There's a girl who I'm assuming is named Haruhi, and based on her last name she could be a distant relative of Akane from Kiminozo. And she wears an armband with characters only Those With More Character Recognition Skill than I could possibly identify. She could be the school rep? A nurse? Night watchman? Anyway, I can sum up why I want to watch this in two words: Kyoto Animation. Air was animated by Kyoto Animation, as was Inu Yasha, so I have high hopes that the animation quality for Haruhi will be up there too. After watching the horror that is Burn Up Scramble (was running out of things to put in my Netflix queue) I can't wait to see something with visuals that don't look like they were drawn by a five-year old.

Sasami ~ Mahou Shoujo Club - I already know no one is going to sub this, but because Pretty Sammy was a hilarious OVA and TV series I'm looking forward to this anyway. I may even watch the raw and understand 1% of it, worst comes to worst. This could be really good, or it could just be awful, but if they can keep the sense of humor of Pretty Sammy (which this series has zero relation to story-wise, other than some of the characters carry over) then it'll be great. Besides, Washu, Mihoshi, and Sasami (from the various Tenchi Muyo universes) are in it, so how can it be that bad?

School Rumble Second Semester - Sukuran was awesome--I can't tell you how glad I am it's getting a second season. Although I think the manga-ka has created such a convoluted relationship chart for this that in the end he'll do a Takahashi and cop out, leaving it somewhat open ended, like the end of Urusei Yatsura. Actually, in UY it was much more clear who'd end up with who than in Sukuran so far...

And series (serieses? serii?) I'll watch, but won't make me keep hitting "refresh" every 30 seconds on Baka-Updates:

Joshikousei GIRLS-HIGH - This looks like it could be good, a slice-of-high-school-life supposedly based on the manga-ka and her friends' real high school experience. A high school series with no ninjas, harems, or witches--is such a thing even possible?

Strawberry Panic - Yes, this is probably just mindless yuri fanservice, doubtlessly aimed at otaku who buy body pillows and live in their parents' house even though they're 57 years old, and don't work, or bathe, or blah, blah, blah. So what? It's yuri. Being a guy, hell yes I'm going to watch this. Although if it has no plot at all, or is as mind-numbingly dull as Sister Princess RePure, then I'll drop it.

Soul Link - From the creators of Shuffle, so I'm sure a lot of people will download it--but I was in the minority that didn't care for Shuffle that much. My problem with Shuffle was the doormat factor, but if Soul Link has at least one tsundere character I'll forgive Navel. Yes, it's a harem anime, but there are guns and space involved, which at least means there'll probably be more action than Shuffle had.

Utawarerumono - Yes, I copied and pasted the name. It really needs a shorter name if I'm ever going to mention it in a sentence again. Anyway, "Utawa" has some potential, being based on a game from Leaf, and unlike To Heart 2, it looks like Utawa will get the full 26-episode treatment, which should give plenty of time to develop all the characters and put an interesting plot together. Leaf creates some interesting characters, so looking forward to this.

Disgaea - Based on an RPG game, which usually means trouble in my book, but there's a lot of buzz for this because the game was evidently pretty funny and had some great, memorable characters.

The Third ~Aoi Hitomi no Shoujo~ - Don't know much about it, but the 'girl in desert world' premise could be interesting.

Kamisama Kazoku - The artwork looks interesting...something about a god who falls in love. Although from the website looks like even gods ride bicycles, so wonder if the world for this is somewhat like Kamichu. Unfortunately, doesn't air until mid-May so have a while to wait for it.

Aria Second Season - Girls with boats...still don't like this as much as YKK, but it's about as close to YKK as is likely to air in spring, so I'll probably watch it.

Wow...looking at that list, there's a lot coming out this spring. And there's always at least one series that hits me out of nowhere, like Kage Kara Mamoru winter season, that I don't see coming at all and then I get addicted to. Good thing I'm too lazy to blog all these like a real anime blogger would, or I'd never have time to work, sleep, or eat. Hopefully April's going to be a very good month to be an anime fan.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Karin 16: Hot Obaa-sans Are Embarrassing

What normal high school student could resist a nice hot bath with their grandma?

As they say in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: you have chosen...poorly.

Sleeping off a long hot, night with Usui-kun.

Karin is a series I was really looking forward to--but after a good start the first few episodes the plot seemed to get stuck in neutral, and the fact Winner/Weiner the inept gaijin vampire hunter annoys the heck out of me really dropped my enjoyment of the series. But recently Winner's screentime has been limited (when he does show up I just fast-forward), and with Elda's introduction in episode 15 the plot might actually be moving forward again.

Elda is Karin's long-lost grandmother (Henry's mother), who'd been in a coffin in the basement for the last 200 years, thanks to her daughter-in-law piling rocks on top of it so she couldn't get out. When she does escape, Elda's ready to drink a LOT of blood to make up for lost time, and she goes on a rampage at Karin's school--and at the start of this episode she's about to bite Usui-kun. Of course, she doesn't, as Anju's bats stop her just in the nick of time. Karin arrives on the scene and yells at Elda, who withdraws.

Elda explains her backstory to Karin, and it's more dramatic than I'd come to expect from this show--she fell in love with a human, Alfred, 200 years ago, but Alfred's father hated vampires, even ordering three of them to be publicly executed. Al's father locks him up and leads a mob to go kill Elda, but Al escapes to be at Elda's side. Elda's too tired to escape, and Al offers her his neck--Elda doesn't want to do it, because when she sucks blood it takes away people's feeling of love, and he'd fall out of love with her. But Al assures her he will still love her no matter what and Elda bites him. Unfortunately for Elda, Al, who had been the nicest guy in the world to this point, studying to be a botanist, DOES lose his love for her because of the bite, to the point that he now hates her and drives a stake into her heart. At the end of the episode, Elda is vowing to bite Usui-kun for Karin's own good, because based on her own experience Elda's convinced humans and vampires can't be together.

Overall, this was one of the better episodes of the series, I thought--although I feel bad for the couple in Karin's school Elda bit in the last episode, since now they'll have lost any feelings for each other. Not to mention Al and all the people Elda bit when she went on a rampage 200 years ago. Although since the effects of Karin's bite wears off in time, it's possible after Elda's bite Al would slowly return to falling in love with her. Which would be pretty horrible for him, as he fell back in love with her but now she's gone and he's left with knowing that he had tried to kill her. Unfortunately, Elda's flashback ends where Al stabbed her, so we don't know what happened after that.

Up until now, the effects of being bitten by a vampire have been shown as positive--Ren's bite relieves stress and Karin's cures depression. On the contrary Elda has been cursed with a negative effect--people she bites fall out of love, or in Al's case his love was turned to hate. Makes me wonder who's Henry's father--did Elda marry a vampire after things went south with Al? Henry doesn't look like Al so can't imagine him as her and Al's love child... Based on the title of the next episode, looks like Elda will be leaving, which is really too bad--she's a complex character and she's actually added some drama to the series, which it'd been lacking lately.

One thing I don't get is why everyone, Maki included, can't tell Elda and Karin apart. Their hair's a different color AND length--it's not that difficult. And I can't help thinking Maki would be much better off if Elda had gone ahead and bit her...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Da Capo (First Season) 14-26

I just finished (re-)watching the first season of Da Capo--I loved the ending, giving each of the characters their due and resolving the triangle between Nemu, Sakura, and Junichi in a realistic and not entirely pain-free way. Especially when I compare the first season of Da Capo to other game-turned-anime series, it really stacks up well. In your typical game-to-anime series, there's an introduction, then one-girl-per-episode to introduce the whole cast, then some kind of dramatic ending with the main couple (or it's just completely open ended). With 26 episodes to work with, Da Capo was able to go beyond that, and the ending, and the death of the sakura tree that granted people's wishes, ends up affecting the whole cast. Kotori, Yoriko, and Miharu are all given their time to shine at the end, and Miharu and Yoriko's exits were particularly well done. Sakura's struggle as the tree makes her darker wishes turn into reality was an interesting story as well. While Sakura just annoyed me throughout most of the series, seeing what she was going through in the last few episodes it's hard not to sympathize with her. The mystery of the sakura tree and the effects that it has on the town were all well explained in the end, a nice contrast to some other series that just leave things open. And the side stories, while you could say they were a little out there, were entertaining too and I commend the staff for taking the chance on them.

Although the character I was rooting for (Kotori) didn't "win", in the end I'm glad Da Capo had the guts to have the male lead fall for one of the girls and stay with her, unlike some other game-to-anime conversions where to avoid pissing off any one girl's fans they leave things muddled and open-ended. And while Nemu has her faults, I have to admit her and Junichi make a good couple.

After watching D.C.S.S I was expecting that rewatching the first season I'd find at least SOME reference to Nemu wanting to become a nurse to justify what happened between the first season and the start of D.C.S.S. (when Nemu has been absent from Hatsunejima for two years since she went to nursing school) but...nope. Nada. Nothing. No Nemu glancing at a nurse walking down the street and suddenly looking thoughtful, no "nii-san, wouldn't it be great to help sick people someday?", no cosplay involving nurse's uniforms when Nemu and Junichi get busy--nothing. I guess when they did the first season they had no idea there'd be a second, but it makes for a weird gap in continuity. Nemu and Junichi are so rabu rabu at the end of the first season that it's just hard to imagine that Nemu would take off for nursing school for two years away from her beloved nii-san. Well, I guess that's what they call a plot device--and that's more a fault with D.C.S.S. than the first season anyway.

Without further ado, here are the episode summaries for the second half of season one of Da Capo:

Episode 14: A Miharu episode, as Nemu takes off early after school and Miharu drags Junichi around town shopping in lieu of Nemu. Plus we learn way too much about Nemu's choice of pajamas. Nemu wearing the ring Junichi got her on her left ring should show Junichi (if he had any doubts) that Nemu is obsessed with him. Maybe not quite Kaede-from-Shuffle obsessed, but if Junichi ever DID hook up with Kotori, Mako, or Miharu I bet Nemu'd be in School Days mode faster than a paramedic can say "ouch, looks like she cut it clean off."
SIDE STORY: Moe goes to the beach, wearing (by Moe standards) a conservative bikini. She wades in the water and nearly gets stung by something poisonous--after a man explains the dangers of various fish and clams, Mako goes out in a raft instead and floats around (not that with Moe's built in life preservers she NEEDS a raft). It kind of surprised me Moe was able to successfully inflate a raft by herself but maybe she's not QUITE as dumb as she acts.

Episode 15: Recap. Since I hate recaps, I skipped it.

Episode 16: Junichi remembers Grandma Yoshino, and her showing him magic, being able to create candy out of thin air (looks like mochi). It's pretty sad that's the only magic Junichi ever learns, wonder if he could have been Negi Springfield-caliber if he applied himself, or if he really doesn't have any talent... Nemu buys tickets for her and Junichi to go see a new movie, but right before she can ask him Sakura comes by and asks him to stay over the day the movie comes out. Junichi asks Nemu if it's OK, and Nemu says he doesn't need her permission (note to Junichi: that means "no", if you know what's good for you). He ends up going over to Sakura's house and that's where the main part of the episode ends.
SIDE STORY: Mako and Nemu go into an old abandoned house when they get caught in a sudden downpour--Mako was leading the way and Nemu was apprehensive, which is weird given we've established Mako hates horror movies, so this seems a little out of character for her. In the end, strange things start happening, and Mako and Nemu run like hell.

Episode 17: The final smackdown, Nemu vs Sakura, gets started as Nemu and Miharu go to the movies, while Junichi is at Sakura's place. Sakura takes the opportunity to put the moves on Junichi--she asks Junichi to kiss her, and Junichi almost complies, but then he thinks of Nemu and backs away, telling Sakura he's sorry. Junichi finally gets around to asking what I would have asked in episode 1--why is Sakura still the same as she was six years ago? Sakura explains that her grandmother planted the biggest sakura tree on the island, and that tree is the reason the sakura bloom year round on Hatsunejima. Grandma Yoshino planted it for Sakura, and it has the power to grant people's wishes. Kotori reading minds, Yoriko being able to take human form, and the other mysterious things on Hatsunejima are all a result of that sakura tree granting people's wishes. Meanwhile, Nemu is at the movies with mecha-Miharu, when Miharu starts smoking (out her ears), and Nemu finds out her secret. Miharu apologizes for not telling her she wasn't the real Miharu before, but Nemu says she'd originally bought the movie tickets to go with Junichi and not Miharu, so she lied too and they're even. Miharu tells Nemu she should be able to tell the one she loves that she loves him, and Nemu decides to confess to Junichi. But right as Nemu gets back home, Junichi is leaving Sakura's place as Sakura is giving him a hug.
SIDE STORY: Yoriko wanders around town at night in her nightgown, and seems to be having fun and pretty much over her fear of the outside. Or maybe she's nocturnal so at night it's less scary for her. Yoriko sitting on top of the gothic-looking building with the full moon shining brightly behind her reminded me of Tsukuyomi for a second. She ends up playing with a bunch of cats, then dancing on the roof of a building with a guy who appeared out of nowhere, and then falls asleep.

Episode 18: Nemu and Junichi go inside but aren't speaking to each other, both of them thinking about their relationship. Junichi remembers when they were little Nemu ran away from home, but Junichi found her under the big sakura tree. Junichi asked her why she ran away and Nemu says it's because she didn't want to be a burden for everyone, but she'd prayed to the sakura tree that he would find her. Under the tree with Nemu, Junichi had promised to protect her, and he still remembers the promise today. After a while both of them go downstairs since they get hungry, and Nemu finally tells Junichi she likes him, and that if she doesn't do something Sakura will take him away from her. This scene was really well done--you can argue it's selfish of Nemu, and if she really loved Junichi she'd be more concerned about him being happy than happy with her specifically, but it comes across as a very real reaction: Nemu crying "anyone but Sakura-chan!" Junichi says he's known Nemu liked him all along, but was afraid to ruin their relationship as siblings--but he seems to accept where things are now, and they kiss. The next day they're going to a movie together, on a real date--so you'd think now Junichi and Nemu are a couple, so the story's over...but it's not over by a long shot...
SIDE STORY: Nemu, Mako, and Moe are eating lollipops when a bunch of kids walk by in yukata and they get lost in the woods. Moe eats a mushroom and imagines herself growing 100 feet tall, but it turns out to have been a hallucination. I can only imagine the kind of mushrooms the writers for the side stories have been taking.

Episode 19: Junichi and Nemu go to school and think they're acting normally, but the whole school realizes they're going out and rumors start flying. I found this part particularly funny, since my wife and I met at work, thought we were keeping everything on the down low, but sure enough everyone and their mother knew we were dating--in fact, they thought we started dating two months before we actually did. But back to the story, Miharu runs up to Nemu and Junichi after school and tells them love conquers everything, so they shouldn't worry about the fact the whole school is talking about them. Suginami, on the other hand, tells Junichi he should wake up from the dream he's in, that even though they aren't related he and Nemu are still brother and sister. Sakura goes into bratty mode at school, and later after dragging Junichi on a 'date', delivers an echo of Nemu's line from the last episode, only Sakura says "anyone but Nemu!" However, the phone rings and it's Miharu saying Nemu collapsed, and Junichi runs to be at her side, leaving Sakura behind. Later that night as Junichi carries Nemu home, Nemu asks if it's OK, them being together, and Junichi says yes. Finally, a male lead who doesn't waffle. Later that night, the two are in Nemu's room and they end up doing the horizontal mambo (off-camera), making it pretty clear Nemu "wins".
SIDE STORY: Catman appears again, and finds himself transported into someone else's body, who's talking with someone who looks and sounds like Sakura, only she doesn't have her trademark blue ribbons on, and actually she's more kawaii than Sakura. She talks about how someone just bought the first color TV on the island, making me think this is the past and it's actually Sakura's mother. Right as Sakura-mom runs into Shirakawa-san (Kotori's mother?) Catman finds himself back in his own body again. Definitely one of the weirder side stories, but still well animated and somehow relaxing to watch.

Episode 20: Sakura calls Junichi up to the roof while he's waiting for Nemu after school and is generally obnoxious, saying she's sorry she implied Nemu and Junichi were lovers, because since they're siblings that can't be true. Junichi is about to tell her he likes Nemu, but Sakura doesn't want to hear it--she reminds him of the three promises she made with Junichi when she left for America, the third one being that they would be lovers when they met again. Junichi basically says nice try, Sakura, I remember the promise but I'm with Nemu, not you--Sakura says if it was anyone else she'd be fine with it, but not Nemu-chan (although I've got to wonder if this is really true). Right when she says anyone but Nemu-chan, Nemu shows up on the roof and they start arguing. Sakura finally seems to get the picture when Junichi steps between her and Nemu--I credit Junichi with not waffling here like your typical harem lead (*cough* Masaki Tenchi *cough*) would. Junichi knows he likes Nemu and realizes that's going to hurt Sakura, but he's not going to string Sakura along either since that would be more cruel. After he tells Sakura he loves Nemu and reaffirms that to Nemu herself later that night, Nemu collapses and a sakura petal falls from her mouth--that's right, the cherry tree Grandma Yoshino planted is going to the Dark Side...
SIDE STORY: Catman is sitting in an old movie theater with a hole in the roof watching clips from the side stories so far on the screen. A scene comes up on the screen that we haven't seen yet, of Catman and a young Sakura's mom from the last side story, saying they got into the same high school. Silent movie style the Catman replies in text that he has to move away due to his father's work, and Sakura's mom cries, as Catman cries in the audience. Very weird. Still, I'll shed a tear with Catman when the side stories end, they were different but still entertaining.

Episode 21: This time we get the side story first.
SIDE STORY: The last of the side stories--all the girls except Yoriko are at a restaurant talking about who they call "Mysterious-san", aka who I've been calling Catman. Sakura, Moe, and Kotori have seen him, while Nemu, Miharu, and Mako haven't yet. They decide to split up into pairs and search for him, and they do, heading all over the island, until finally Sakura and Miharu spot him at the dock, and call everyone else. The girls all reach the dock in time to wave goodbye, as Catman heads out to sea on a ferry. I'd say Catman represents man's search for truth in an uncertain world or something, but I have absolutely no idea who the hell he really is. Having said that the side stories were fun anyway.
REGULAR EPISODE: Sakura is depressed over being rejected, but she vows she's going to continue on with her life and not run away from the truth. Since almost everyone has been rejected at least once in their lives, this is an easy scene to relate to. At school, Junichi and Nemu are both absent, and in the cafeteria at lunch Mako explains to Suginami and Miharu that Junichi said Nemu was unconscious and coughing up sakura petals. Sakura overhears this and drops her lunch tray, running out of the cafeteria--she remembers a time when she was little and a kid who picked on her was hit by a car and taken away on an ambulance, the other kids thinking it was a curse she put on him. Sakura goes to see Nemu and Junichi, and tells Junichi what's happening to Nemu is her fault--the tree is granting her desires and although she's trying to accept the situation deep down there must be part of her that wants Nemu gone. Junichi says it isn't her fault, but Sakura knows that's not true. Yoriko tells Sakura she overheard the conversation and suggests killing the magic sakura tree, which would return Yoriko to being a normal cat. Sakura balks, saying that would affect the wishes of everyone in town that are granted by the tree, but Yoriko says sometimes magic spells have to be broken, and thanks Sakura that she has been able to live as a human, even if it's just for a short while. In the end, Sakura goes to the magic sakura tree and it glows as she tries to kill it--and back in bed, Nemu regains consciousness.

Episode 22: Yoriko makes Junichi breakfast just like normal, making about a metric ton worth of curry and guaranteeing he'll have leftovers for days. Yoriko says she has a favor to ask him--she wants him to take her on a date, and insists that it has to be tonight. Later at school, Sakura tells Junichi to be extra nice to Yoriko, because tonight's very special. I'm thinking Sakura bugged the Asakura house. Junichi asks Yoriko where she wants to go, and she surprises him by saying she wants to go to school, where him and everyone else study and have fun every day. Junichi takes her there even though at night it's deserted, and Yoriko has very un-cat-like problems getting over the wall since the front gate's locked. After they get inside they go to his class, explore the school, and Yoriko almost ends up pressing the fire alarm, her curiosity getting the best of her. At the end of the night, on the roof together, Junichi tells Yoriko she should come to school every day, as a transfer student, now that she can go outside of the house freely. Yoriko says she'd love to but she can't--she tells Junichi that Sakura is killing the magic sakura tree to save Nemu, but with its magic fading, Yoriko has to return to her old form too. Yoriko thanks Junichi for everything he's done, kisses him goodbye, and vanishes, leaving Junichi holding the dress she wore. Definitely a well done scene at the end, hell, it made me cry just like Junichi did. In the end Yoriko the cat returns to her owner, and her owner seems to realize what Yoriko was able to do, making her dream come true. Yoriko's hard not to like, with her earnestness and her self-sacrifice suggesting to Sakura to kill the sakura tree to save Nemu, knowing full well that would bring her own dream to an end. Although I can't imagine after eating normal human food to have to go back to eating cat food every day.

Episode 23: To paraphrase FDR, this is An Episode That Will Live in Infamy. Junichi is seeing someone else's dream again--this time it's Kotori as a little girl, crying because she doesn't understand what her new family is thinking and wishing she had the power to read people's minds. Junichi's DreamVision breaks up with static like last time, as his power to see dreams is weakening along with the falling sakura. Nemu's still slowly recovering, so Junichi's been going to school alone, and Kotori finds that while suddenly she can't read anyone else's thoughts, she can still read Junichi's. Kotori had felt like her mind-reading ability had been a bother sometimes, but now that it's gone she's a little afraid and feels safer around Junichi since she can still tell what he's thinking. After a while, Kotori realizes it's not just that, but she really likes Junichi--her friends urge her to confess, and Kotori decides to do it. On the rooftop she finally loses the ability to even read Junichi's mind, and Junichi tells her although it can be difficult not being to perfectly understand everyone and get in fights and misunderstandings, in a way that can be fun too. Kotori seems to realize that's just part of life and accepts it, and she confesses to Junichi--and in a move that makes Kotori fans the world over shake their heads in disbelief he turns her down. Although given that Junichi and Nemu are a solid couple at this point, the story couldn't really go any other way unless Junichi was a total man-whore. In any case, Kotori seems to take it OK, smiling and waving back at everyone in school as she decides to cut class afterwards. Good for you, Kotori.

Episode 24: Mecha-Miharu collapses, and Junichi hurries to the Amakase Research Lab, where the real Miharu is sleeping, still in a coma but slowly recovering. Mecha-Miharu seems to be her usual self, and assures Junichi she's fine--but Koyomi-sensei tells him that mecha-Miharu at best has a week or a month to live, and at worst could die as soon as today. Junichi can't believe it, but Koyomi-sensei tells him she wasn't designed to live long and it's a miracle she's kept operating this far. She also tells him mecha-Miharu is shortening her own lifespan by trying to find the real Miharu's memories, which mecha-Miharu doesn't have. Junichi asks Miharu (robot) to stop looking for those memories, but she replies she knows it's silly to look but she had a dream of a young Miharu and Junichi burying a time capsule under the sakura tree, so she has to try to see if she can recover more memories. Junichi gets upset and leaves, but later that night Miharu is digging for the capsule and Junichi joins her to help. They find the time capsule they buried when they were little, which contained a wish each of them made back then--Junichi's was "world peace", which makes Miharu laugh. Junichi grabs the paper with Miharu's wish, saying it was only fair he should see it since she saw his wish--and Miharu's says that she wants to be with Junichi forever. Miharu asks Junichi to stay with her until the end, and she passes away in his arms under the sakura tree, saying if she knew this was going to happen she would've eaten more bananas. Not to get too heavy, but as comic as the line sounds, Miharu is right--everyone dies someday, and it's good advice to spend as much time as possible while you're here doing the things you enjoy, so you don't have any regrets. And in Miharu's case what she really enjoys is...well, eating lots of bananas.

Episode 25: Nemu is coughing up sakura petals again as the tree regains strength--she hides them so Junichi won't worry and pretends she's back to normal, but she's really getting worse. Sakura apologizes to Nemu while Junichi is out, saying it's her fault Nemu is sick because although she tried to give up on Junichi deep down she can't, and that's why the sakura tree is doing this. Nemu hugs Sakura and says she understands Sakura's feelings, about each of them not wanting to lose Junichi to the other, and that they're really both a lot alike. Sakura decides to leave the island, hoping that will end Nemu's sickness, but when Suginami and Mako come over to visit Nemu, Nemu can't remember who they are. When they see Sakura about to leave the island and tell her what's happened to Nemu, Sakura drops her bag and runs off towards the tree. Damn, I thought I traveled light but Sakura only has ONE carry-on bag? It's not even all that big--must be a TARDIS bag.

Episode 26: Nemu wakes up in her bedroom and Junichi isn't there, so she goes looking for her onii-chan. Junichi's in the kitchen, but Nemu, somewhat groggy, doesn't notice and walks straight out the front door. Junichi realizes this too late and runs after her, but they've missed each other. Junichi goes to school but Nemu's not there--so next he tries the sakura tree, where he finds a disheveled Sakura, who finally snaps, screaming and begging the tree to just die, but it ends up growing even larger instead. Sakura tells Junichi it's all her fault because she can't bring herself to give up on him, so the tree is erasing all Nemu's memories, which deep down must be what Sakura wants. Junichi hugs her and tells her no matter what he doesn't hate Sakura, and that she doesn't have to try so hard anymore. He'll be at Nemu's side regardless and even if Nemu forgets him completely, Junichi himself will still remember. Nemu arrives and Junichi goes to her side--and Junichi's words have made Sakura accept things, and all at once, the sakura tree sheds all its petals. Later Sakura leaves the island, telling Junichi she'll return grown up (as we see in D.C.S.S. not true...) and Junichi runs to school past the rest of the cast--and there's Nemu, in her new high school uniform, waiting for him at the gate with a smile.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

In the Wake of the Week - RePure

It's been a while since I did a post with just random anime thoughts, so might as well post one now:

* Fate/Stay Night (eps 8 and 9) - Episode 8 was possibly my favorite so far, I'm kind of surprised Sakura had the guts to stand up to Rin. As a tsundere fan, Rin is definitely my favorite character, so I'm glad to see she got a lot of screentime in ep 8 and is shacking up with Shirou, even though she didn't get much time in the spotlight in ep 9. Episode 9 had more talking than fight scenes, which isn't always a bad thing--although for being the allegedly strongest servant, Saber seems to be not doing so well in battle, not that I could kick Assassin's ass or anything. I guess since Shirou's kind of a dame-dame master who can't send her mana it's probably his fault she gets smacked down.

* Kage Kara Mamoru (eps 6 and 7) - Not a bad two episodes, in episode 6 the last cast member of Mamoru's harem arrives, Hotaru, and in the process of her mission (defeating him to get back at his clan for something Yamame did) she falls for him. She's also the first to get a kiss, although it's the unconscious CPR-type variety. Hotaru should definitely go into health care and ditch the ninja thing. Episode 7 was about Yuuna and Mamoru's childhood together, and it was pretty well done, showing how although at first Mamoru thought looking after Yuuna was a chore (and it looked like it was) after she's kidnapped he realizes there were a lot of good times with her too, and rather than just protecting her because of the Kagemori family code, now he WANTS to protect her. The smackdown between all the girls of Mamoru's harem at the end was funny--Mamoru may be a kickass ninja, but he's lacking common sense not to see all the girls have a crush on him after that scene. Although I wish Yuuna's regular character design looked more like chibi-Yuuna does in episode 7--not the loli part, but her eyes. Something about Yuuna's eyes just look off normally, like she's half-asleep or something, but in ep 7 chibi-Yuuna didn't have that problem. Maybe high school Yuuna is just tired from staying up all night thinking up new lyrics for the Banana song.

* Karin (eps 12-15): The only way I convinced myself to watch Karin again was to promise I would fast-forward through every scene Weiner/Winner appeared in. And sure enough, with him gone, this series is a lot more entertaining for me (apologies to Winner-kun's fans). These episodes had some good stories to make up for the Weiner-filler-glut earlier--Karin finally realizes she likes Usui-kun, Ren goes after Fumio (Usui-kun's mom), and Maki continues to have the worst taste in men ever. Elda's sudden introduction in ep 15 seems to be screaming "the writers are out of ideas so let's throw another character in" but that's a tried and true method for a reason, and it may make for an interesting story arc. Fumio really needs to get a job, any job, at an all-girls school that only hires women. Sure, the school would probably go all Strawberry Panic on her, but I'm guessing it'd be better than every other job she's had, where she's like a sexual harassment magnet. That or she needs to find a good lawyer--in the US, she could file enough wrongful termination lawsuits to be on Easy Street for the rest of her life.

* Magikano (ep 7): Not quite as funny as episode 6, but ep 7 still had its moments, as what looks like the last main cast member, Rika, shows up. This continues to be the best of the insane-comedy-little-plot genre this season for me. Although nothing will ever be quite as funny as Pani Poni Dash, Magikano's a fun show to watch.

* Negima (manga through chapter 127): Thank GOD the martial arts tournament is over. There's three volumes you couldn't sell me for a nickel--I've already deleted those chapters off my hard drive, because I'd rather have a trivial amount more disk space than ever re-read them. Fortunately, volume 14 is pretty good, although I wish we got more backstory on Ako than we did. Sure, she's rabu-rabu for Negi (well, older Negi) now but that's not unusual--but where did the scar come from? Was she actually in Negi's village when it was attacked, or is there a more conventional reason? Akamatsu can do drama really well occasionally (just read the chapters where Negi shows Asuna how he met his father) but he doesn't do it nearly often enough. I also wonder how Akamatsu will end this--Love Hina ended with a wedding, but will Negima? I guess at least the 30 girls who don't get to be Negi's girlfriend will have lots of other shoulders to cry on if he does ever pick just one. End of chapter 127 has a good cliffhanger, good to see the Nodoka-Yue-Negi triangle finally come out into the open as Nodoka finds out Yue likes Negi too. Not that this should shock Nodoka...all her other classmates like him, after all...

* Rec (eps 3 and 4): Aka-chan kawaii! Seriously, they should put her picture next to moe in Wikipedia. Umai-ki! It's a stupid looking mascot but Aka can make even Nekoki cute....kind of. The weird transitions for what I'm assuming are commercial breaks are the only annoying thing about this show, that and I kind of wish it was full-length vs short episodes.

* Shinigami no Ballad (ep 1) - Very good first episode. It felt a lot like Zettai Shonen (it had some of the same staff) in terms of the camera work, character designs, and pacing, which I'm sure makes it too slow-paced for some, but I really liked it. Shinibara is six one-shot episodes, and from the ED credits it looks like there's a boy and a girl in each one--although if every episode is a different couple broken up by one or the other dying, this is going to get really old by episode six. Surprisingly little background on Momo the shinigami in ep 1, even though she's the main character she doesn't have more than a few lines, and they're all at the end. Chiwa Saitou as Mai was something I wasn't sure would work (she usually plays more bratty roles) but I give her credit, she did a solid job.

* Tactical Roar (ep 1): Watching this just reaffirmed how much I hate CG. Maybe it's because I grew up when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and CGA was the most kick-ass graphics could get, but I'm a firm believer that CG belongs in video games and not anime. It's just jarring as hell to go from 2D animation to 3D ships that look...well, like they were rendered on my '97-vintage Playstation. Stratos 4, which Tactical Roar is often compared to, had the CG action scenes too, but Tactical Roar's seem to be either more plentiful or worse. I might give it another episode, just because I'm curious why the lead's osanajimi seems to be ignoring him.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou - End

Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is over, after 140 chapters. It's almost enough to make me drink a cup of coffee in Alpha's honor, although since I'd rather drink diesel fuel than coffee I think I'll have to pass. Maybe I'll have raise a beer to Alpha instead.

If you're not familiar with it, there's a Wikipedia article that gives a much more thorough summary of YKK than I could. But if I had to describe it in a paragraph, YKK follows the life of a human-looking robot, Alpha, and her friends, set at some indeterminate point in the future where the pace of life has significantly slowed. It's essentially a laid back, slice of life type series that pretty much throws conventional storytelling out the window, but it still manages to be compelling. If you liked Aria or Zettai Shonen, I'd recommend going to misago.org and cafealpha.org to check out the manga. There are four OVA episodes for YKK as well, which I liked a lot also. Having said that if you don't like loose ends and unresolved mysteries, and want a lot of action in your manga, then run away as fast as you can.

YKK is set in a future world where human-like androids, like the main character, Alpha, coexist seamlessly with humans, but humans are slowly dying out in a world that's much more sparsely populated than ours (and with a bad case of global warming). It's a world that's full of mysteries (just a few are listed on the Wikipedia page) but if you expect to find answers to any of them by the end of the manga, you'll be disappointed. Why is humanity slowly, but peacefully, disappearing? Who the hell is the Misago really? What's up with the trees that look like streetlights? All good questions, but you won't get any answers. The ending of YKK is more like an arbitrary point in Alpha's life where the story just stops following her--there's no big event, no climax, no conclusion that ties up all the loose ends.

With any other series an ending like that would probably solitict a lengthy, hateful rant, but when I think about it, it's an appropriate way to end YKK--much like Zettai Shonen the true nature of the mysteries it presents aren't important, it's the development of the characters that's the focus. And if YKK had ended like Planetarian, I'd never forgive the manga-ka. It is sad to see all the potential stories that never got to be--Director Alpha and what became of her, the backstory of the Misago, and so on. A determined fanfic writer could probably crank out a billion pages picking up where the manga left off. But as much as I wish we got more closure for all the characters in the end, an open-ended "ending" has its advantages. Would you want to see Sensei, Ojisan, Tadahiro, and all Alpha's other human friends die, as she remains ageless? It'd be interesting to see how Alpha coped, but chapter after chapter of funerals as time relentlessly marched on for everyone but Alpha would get depressing too. And not to spoil too much, but as a fan of happy endings I wasn't disappointed with the note the series ended on.

If you haven't checked YKK out I'd highly recommend it--like Zettai Shonen's Tana arc, it does a great job at creating a mysterious atmosphere, and has an interesting, endearing cast of characters. Most of YKK is scanlated at misago.org, with the last couple dozen chapters at cafealpha.org, and AnimeSuki has the OVA episodes fansubbed as well. It's one of those series it's hard to do justice to in a review, you really just have to see it for yourself.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Da Capo (First Season) 1-13

I recently started re-watching the first season of Da Capo, which combined with D.C.S.S. is the longest-running renai-game-to-anime series (52 episodes). It's a lot of fun going back and watching this again--I really like the cast, and while at first Da Capo seems like an ordinary harem series, it has an element of mystery to it and some well-done drama at the end. Plus going back and watching it again there are some things, like Kotori's comment in episode 10 that she's glad Nemu is "only Junichi's little sister", that have a little more irony now than the first time I watched it.

I still prefer the character designs from D.C.S.S. over the first season's, but the side stories in the first season of Da Capo have grown on me over time. The middle episodes of Da Capo are shorter than normal (about 15 minutes not counting OP/ED, instead of 21) to make room for a five-minute side story, each of which focuses on a different member of the cast. When I first watched Da Capo, because they were so different they were a little baffling, but knowing what to expect they're creative and entertaining in their own way. In some ways they're like watching really short episodes of Aria--nothing really incredible happens, but you get to follow each character through a small, five minute slice of their lives.

Mainly for my own benefit if I ever want to go back and watch a specific episode, here's the Cliff Notes version of the first 13 episodes of Da Capo--when I get all the way to the end I'll do this again for the last 13 episodes, where the drama kicks in:

Episode 1: The first episode opens with a dream--the protagonist, Asakura Junichi, has the ability to see other people's dreams in his sleep. Junichi tells us this is about the worst special power to have because there's nothing more boring than watching someone else's dream. He sees Sakura in his dream, but then gets woken up by Nemu. The main cast gets introduced--there's Junichi (the male lead), his sister (not related by blood) Nemu, who lives alone with him and tries to wake him up every morning with varying degrees of success, Suginami, Junichi's best friend, Mako and Moe, the sisters who always eat nabe on the roof at lunch, Miharu, Nemu's banana-obsessed best friend who's a year younger than her and Junichi, and Kotori, the school idol, who's so considerate it's half-seriously joked that she can read minds. At the end of the episode Sakura shows up--she was a childhood friend of Junichi's who moved away to America six years ago, and mysteriously she hasn't aged at all since then. This is unusual, but on Hatsune Island, where the sakura blossoms never wither all year round, lots of mysterious things happen and don't really seem to alarm anyone. At the end of the episode Sakura sneaks into Junichi's room for a kiss, just in time for Nemu to get jealous and pound Junichi.

Episode 2: Nemu's annoyed with Junichi after what happened at the end of the last episode, but in the end they make up.

Episode 3: Miharu's story--she's trying to reach a cat stuck in a tree after school, but falls and gets injured. In her place, since the real Miharu could be in a coma for a year, mecha-Miharu, a robot, is sent to school who looks and (for the most part) acts just like the real Miharu. No one knows this, except for Junichi, who notices smoke coming out of Miharu's head, and later gets the truth from Koyomi-sensei. Koyomi-sensei explains to Junichi that mecha-Miharu has a hole in her back where she has to be wound with a key periodically in order for her to keep running, and occasionally she overheats--but with Junichi to help take care of her, she's sure everything will be OK. Junichi spends the day giving mecha-Miharu a crash course in everyday life at school, and she's earnest and really wants to be like the real Miharu. There are definitely some gaps in her knowledge, but she does love bananas, and since that's Miharu's defining characteristic, everyone else just buys that she's the real Miharu. I don't know what that says about the real Miharu--let's just say she's "simple".

Episode 4: It's Kotori's turn on stage--Junichi comes across her singing under the sakura trees, and we learn she has a special power as well, the ability to tell what other people are thinking. Junichi doesn't realize this though, he just thinks (like everyone else) that Kotori is just really perceptive and considerate. Kotori herself sees reading minds as a mixed blessing--while it's useful sometimes, there are other times that it's almost overwhelming for her. When she collapses after being bombarded with everyone's thoughts during a recital, Kotori is caught by Junichi, and afterwards she starts to like him, feeling that he has a pure heart. Well, pure except for the whole siscon thing.

Episode 5: The girl in the first episode watching Nemu and Junichi go to school from her window had a cat named Yoriko--and in episode 5 it takes off suddenly, chasing after Nemu and Junichi. Later that day some little kids are picking on a girl with nekomimi, but Junichi chases them off. Suginami thinks she's another of the wonders of Hatsunejima, and she ends up going home with Junichi because they have an extra room (an extra room that's the future home of Aisia--if the Asakura house was a two bedroom they'd get in a lot less trouble). Mako and Moe live in a palace, now that I think about it, but somehow people always end up in Asakura Land if they need a place to stay. Anyway, Yoriko says she's a maid, but has pretty much zero maid skills, and Nemu's not happy at all with Yoriko staying there. But in the end, Yoriko works hard all night to make a perfect beefbowl because she knows Junichi likes them, and she's a better chef than Nemu in any case (not difficult, since Nemu's cooking in the first season is universally toxic), so Yoriko stays.

Episode 6: Beach episode, which means mizugi for everyone. Nemu's a little annoyed all episode because Junichi had promised to go to the beach, just the two of them, but instead the whole world ended up going with. In the end Junichi does remember the promise though, and finds Nemu when she wanders off by herself.

Episode 7: Mako and Moe episode, mainly about Moe. Moe is the very well endowed older sister of the two, a year older than Junichi, while Mako is his kind of tsundere classmate. Moe has a tendency to sleepwalk playing the xylophone, and is probably about as ditzy as Yuuna from Kage Kara Mamoru or Milfuelle from Galaxy Angel.

Episode 8: A recap already, for those viewers with really bad short-term memories. Glad they didn't pull this recap crap with D.C.S.S. But before the recap, the first few minutes are actually the first of the "side stories", short six-minute or so stories focusing on each girl in turn. Kind of like Sister Princess RePure, now that I think about it, but the Da Capo side storys are short and actually kind of interesting. In this side story, the girls are at a playground telling ghost stories, which seem to be Miharu's weak point.

Episode 9: Nemu gets a stalker, who leaves her love notes, etc. Turns out it was just someone from a poetry forum on the internet, and in the end he runs away when he thinks Nemu's in love with another girl. Not hard to guess though, that the poem Nemu wrote was really for Junichi.

SIDE STORY: All about Nemu, from Junichi's perspective. There's some Nemu fanservice thrown in, as he walks in on her in the bathroom, shower, etc. and promptly gets beaten down each time. Junichi-Nemu reminds me a lot of Keitaro-Naru from Love Hina, it's amazing Junichi's still alive with the beatdowns he takes.

Episode 10: The school festival's in progress--Kotori invites Junichi to come hear her sing, but with all the preparations for the festival Nemu and Junichi haven't spent much time together, and Junichi (like an idiot) agrees to go around the festival with Nemu at the same time as he'd agreed to go to Kotori's concert. Being able to read minds, Kotori senses Junichi's dilemna, and tells him the concert is canceled, although it really isn't. She also can tell Suginami's pressuring Junichi to ask Kotori to join the school beauty contest, which she does for Junichi's sake. Of course, since Junichi's hanging out with Nemu he misses Kotori's song and Kotori winning the contest. At the end Kotori does meet up with Junichi, and she says (although he doesn't hear it) that she's glad Nemu is just his little sister. Ah, poor Kotori...you had to fall for siscon guy...

SIDE STORY: Kotori at the beach in a hat and sundress, running into the mysterious Cat Man. No overt fanservice in Kotori's story, but she's omega moe so she doesn't need service to get fans. Bonus points for sleeping Kotori. I don't know what it is, but girls (both real life and anime) always look cute sleeping, and Kotori's no exception. Maybe it's just me, but the side story character designs look slightly different (I actually like the side story ones better).

Episode 11: Yoriko fears the outdoors--and since she was a house cat before, I guess it makes sense. The start of the episode is hilarious, as Nemu, Sakura, and Junichi put on a play of sorts in the front yard to try to convince Yoriko that being outside is awesome and she should come join them. It's not very convincing, since Suginami comes by and points out that Nemu and Sakura are all buddy-buddy and Junichi is saying Nemu's food is really good, both things that would never happen in real life (not this season anyway). Yoriko in the end does at least get as far as the street, and hopes one day she can walk with Junichi happily like Nemu does.

SIDE STORY: This time it's Sakura, as she videotapes things and wanders around town.

Episode 12: Mako's episode. A girl's stalking her (the tomboys always get the yuri attention in anime), so to convince her she's straight and get her to give up, Mako asks Junichi if he'll pretend to be her boyfriend. He agrees, and while it's a little forced at first, eventually they really do act like a couple. Junichi gets Mako to go to a scary movie, which turns out to be her weak point, and he thinks although she has a tough exterior Mako can be cute too. In the end the girl stalking Mako gives up, and Mako almost confesses to Junichi, but he just says she should hurry up and get a real boyfriend. I can see how this episode would win Mako a lot of fans--I can't give her the win over Kotori, but Mako is still one of the cooler members of the cast.

SIDE STORY: Starts with Utamaru's day, doing what cats do best (eating and sleeping in the sun). Props to Utamaru for sleeping in Kotori's lap, clearly he has good taste. Then we see Yoriko, who's made it well out of the house, although she still avoids people using her cat-like reflexes. For once, she doesn't hiss at Utamaru either. Yoriko would probably make a good ninja with her background, I keep thinking of All-Purpose Cultural Catgirl Nuku Nuku.

Episode 13: Suginami gets everyone tickets to a combination pool/onsen/zoo resort, although unbenkownst to them it's a plot so they can get bishoujo in their advertising brochures. Moe wears a particularly revealing swimsuit as usual, and Junichi's in awe of her monumental breasts, while Sakura gets depressed that she's got nothing. Later Junichi tells Sakura although he can't deny Moe's breasts have a certain appeal, it's what's inside that matters. If that's true, Moe should be at the bottom of Junichi's rankings, since she's dumb as a post, and gets lost just trying to find the onsen.

SIDE STORY: Possibly my favorite of the side stories, this time Miharu gets the spotlight. She goes online and bids in an auction (and by her reaction at the end, probably loses), flames people on 2chan ("you guys can all go ahead and die!"), and discovers internet porn, rapidly furthering mecha-Miharu's education.

If you made it this far, here's a bonus picture to prove my point about sleeping Kotori: